The UK government has a great opportunity to opt-in to the EU Directive ‘Preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims’. As has been widely commented on, the Coalition Agreement stated that this government would make tackling human trafficking a priority. But at this stage, the government appears unwilling to sign-up to a very sensible series of articles that will update and enhance the protection of the most vulnerable people, including children. When the voting in Europe was more closely examined, it emerged that ALL Conservative and Lib Dem MEPs present voted in favour of the directive. Indeed, when I was over in Brussels recently, one MEP said she wasn’t sure what the objections were in London. And now it has emerged that the Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, speaking on behalf of the European Conservatives and Reformists group has stated:
“It is still not perfect but the directive we have now is far better than the original proposal and, on balance, we felt that the human benefits would outweigh the concerns that we had.”
So, is the government listening to the more coherent voices emanating from its own members in Brussels? Or are they prepared to keep their focus on domestic politics, declaring that they will not opt-in for fear of conceding ground to the EU? If so, it’s difficult to see how they can say that tackling human trafficking is still a priority.