London: British Prime Minister David Cameron`s government came under fire in parliament on Monday for apparently backing out of a vote on joining an EU-wide arrest warrant system under a threat of rebellion by eurosceptic lawmakers.
Though the government supports the European Arrest Warrant, dozens of MPs from Cameron`s own Conservative party had been preparing to vote against. The motion would likely have passed anyway because of opposition support.
MPs will instead be voting later on Monday on lesser reforms required for Britain to adhere to EU policing measures.
Interior minister Theresa May said the outcome of the vote would also indicate a decision on the arrest warrant, even though this was not expressly stipulated in the document before parliament.
Parliamentary speaker John Bercow said the decision not to vote on the warrant was "contemptuous" of the British public.
"This has been a sorry saga," he said.
Angry words were exchanged in the debate, with several Conservatives criticising the government.
"This is a travesty of our parliamentary proceedings," said Bill Cash, a senior Conservative parliamentarian.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Tory rightwinger, accused the government of "underhand" tactics.
The debate comes amid growing tensions between London and Brussels and increased public support for the anti-EU UK Independence Party, which has pushed the government into an increasingly hawkish attitude on immigration and budget issues.
Some Conservative MPs have opposed the warrant, saying it will make it too easy for Britons to be extradited on relatively minor charges. But the government has argued it would keep the country safer and allow for easier deportations.
The government opted out of all EU police and criminal justice measures last year, but now wants to re-join some of them before that decision comes into effect on December 1.
The vote comes ahead of a closely-watched by-election contest in Rochester and Strood in southeast England which UKIP is expected to win, gaining a second seat in parliament.