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  • EUROPEAN police could soon have the power to spy on people in Britain under sweeping new regulations.

    Ministers are this week poised to hand over powers to other EU states, which will mean their police can travel to the UK and investigate Britons.

    Foreign officers will have the right to fingerprint suspects and take DNA or blood samples.

    They could also put them under surveillance, bug ­telephone conversations and monitor bank accounts.

    And those people who refuse to comply with formal requests from overseas forces could face being arrested by UK officers.

    Campaign group Fair Trials International said that under the new rules it would be possible for Spanish police investigating a murder in a club to demand the ID of every British citizen who flew to Spain in the month the killing took place.

    In theory, they could also insist that British police search their DNA database and send samples belonging to anybody who was in Spain at the time. The database includes details of a million people who may then have to battle to prove their innocence.

    The new powers will be brought in by the European Investigation Order (EIO), which is intended to work alongside the controversial European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

    One of the major concerns about the EAW, to which Britain is signed up, is that it has been used to investigate minor misdemeanours, such as the “theft of a dessert” in a Polish restaurant.



    The EIO will make it easier for member states to gather evidence in another country. The far-reaching proposal requires an “opt in”.

    Last night Tory MP Dominic Raab, who has campaigned against the move, said: “This sweeping directive would put serious operational strains on hard-pressed UK police forces.

    “There are scant safeguards to protect the personal information of law-abiding British citizens.

    “These serious issues should be properly debated in Parliament before the UK decides to opt in.” Ministers, however, believe the EIO will benefit British police as the arrangement will be reciprocal, allowing our forces to track foreign suspects overseas.

    Countries demanding the new powers include Bulgaria, Estonia, Slovenia, Spain, Belgium and Austria.Others, including Denmark, are preparing to opt out.

    Fair Trials International has been leading demands for Britain to stay out of the EIO. A spokesman said the EIO would “significantly widen the scope of evidence able to be requested by member states while limiting the grounds for refusal”.

    He added: “FTI argues that the current proposal lacks basic safeguards to ensure the protection of fundamental rights.”

    Last night a Home Office spokesman said: “The Government is ­considering whether or not we should opt in to the EIO. As we pledged in the coalition document, the Government will approach legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system.”

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