Should European leaders agree the draft agreement on EU reform published by Donald Tusk yesterday, I believe it will make our membership of the European Union work even better for Britain. I am encouraged that even those traditionally more sceptical about the EU such as Theresa May see the draft as “a basis for a deal.”
It is not surprising that the Home Secretary should recognise the benefits, not just of this prospective deal, but of working with other countries in Europe. We live in an increasingly uncertain and unsafe world, in which threats like terrorism and organised crime are international and can only be tackled through international co-operation. In that context, being part of an organisation made up of our closest neighbours and allies makes sense for Britain’s security.
Take the European Arrest Warrant, which the Home Secretary described last year as essential for keeping is safe, saying “where Britain needs to co-operate with other EU countries to combat crime, prevent terrorism and protect the public, we must do so.” It allows police forces in Britain to deport EU citizens in this country who have committed a crime simply and easily, while likewise being able to get police forces in the EU to arrest and extradite British criminals on the run in Europe.
Since 2010, over 5,000 EU criminals have been removed from Britain’s streets under this measure. Take the case of Hussein Osman, a 21/7 bomber who fled to Rome and was speedily brought to face British justice under the European Arrest Warrant. If we left Europe, Britain would no longer be party to the EAW, meaning extradition could be more difficult and take far longer.
As the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer, has argued, there are numerous other ways in which being in Europe enhances our national security. When dealing with gangs and terrorist groups which operate in different countries, police forces in different countries need to share information, co-ordinate arrests, and co-ordinate prosecution strategies.
Organisations like Europol and Eurojust provide a framework in which countries can co-operate to achieve the best results. And there are EU provisions for the setting up of joint investigation teams involving police officers from different European countries.
Information is crucial to the fight against international crime and terrorism. The EU collates information from all its different member states and allows police forces to access it quickly and simply. If a suspected terrorist in Britain had been arrested on suspicion of terrorism in another country, that information would be easily available to our security services.
MPs with strong eurosceptic track records are recognising how being in Europe contributes to our security. As Mark Pritchard MP said at the weekend, “Britain is safer in the EU, and Europe is safer with Britain.” I am glad that cabinet ministers appear to agree.
Were we to leave Europe, we would cease to be party to these arrangements. Being in Europe makes our streets safer, and as senior police chiefs and ministers are clear, leaving would not be a risk worth taking. Our membership of the European Union benefits our country as it is. But all those who support Britain remaining in Europe should be clear that the draft deal, if implemented, will make our membership more attractive still.