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European fugitives could seek to escape justice by fleeing to their home countries after Brexit, it has emerged.
Austria, Germany, and Slovenia confirmed they would not extradite their nationals to the UK during the 11-month transition period which starts tomorrow.
All three countries are forbidden by their own constitutions to extradite their own citizens to non-EU countries, which the UK will became on Thursday, and each country would likely to have to change its constitution in order to close the potential loophole.
It raises the prospect that a German, Austrian, or Slovenian national could commit a crime in the UK before fleeing to their respective home country, thereby escaping criminal prosecution in the UK during this year.
Currently, the UK’s extradition powers are governed by the European Arrest Warrant, which EU member states are signed up to.
Once issued, it requires another member state to arrest and extradite a criminal suspect, or sentenced criminal, to the state which has issued the warrant so the person can be put on trial or detained.
The Home Office told Business Insider it expected each country to prosecute those suspected of committing crimes in their own countries.
“The European Arrest Warrant continues to apply during the Implementation Period,” a spokesperson said.
“Where a Member State cannot, for reasons related to fundamental principles of their national law, surrender an own national to the UK during the Implementation period, they will be expected to take over the trial or sentence of the person concerned.”
The UK will remain signed up to the European Arrest Warrant, but the three countries have notified the European Commission that complying with the treaty would be unconstitutional.
The loophole only applies to each country’s own citizens. Each of the three member states will still be able to extradite UK citizens, or other EU nationals under the European Arrest Warrant during the transition period.
The UK left the EU at 11pm on Friday, marking the end of three-and-a-half years of dramatic political turmoil.
In a message which was broadcast as the UK left the EU, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Brexit was “not an end but a beginning
In a video message filmed inside his Downing Street residence, Johnson said: “The most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning.”
“This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act.
“It is a moment of real national renewal and change.”