Quitting the EU would help not hinder our security

Up to 5,000 terrorists trained by Islamic State are now back in Europe, with the right to come to Britain

Article published in The Times, 22 February 2016© Richard Kemp

According to David Cameron and Theresa May, Britain is safer from terrorism inside the EU than out. The Islamic State terrorist attack that killed 130 people in Paris in November — the deadliest in Europe since 2004 — proves them wrong.

Not only was there a catastrophic failure in intelligence sharing between France and Belgium, but the terrorists were able to travel unchecked from Belgium into France precisely because both countries are members of the EU.

The single most important element in preventing attacks is intelligence. Intelligence must be protected and that is why sharing of significant and sensitive intelligence is bilateral between individual states. It is not done through the EU or any other collective mechanisms that would lead to compromise.

These critical bilateral relationships would persist regardless of being in or out of the EU. Our closest intelligence relationship by far is not with any EU member state but with the US.

Nor would Brexit undermine any other area of security co-operation between us and EU member states or central organisations. It is absurd to suggest that the EU would deliberately put its citizens, or ours, at greater risk by reducing co-operation.

Rob Wainwright, chief of Europol, the EU police agency, said last week that up to 5,000 terrorists trained by Islamic State in the Middle East are now back in Europe. This is certain to be a gross underestimate and anyway these numbers will grow. Many are experienced killers. While we remain in the EU these terrorists have the right to come freely into our country.

More than one million immigrants, mostly from the Middle East and Afghanistan, entered the EU in 2015 and at least 80,000 more arrived in the first month of this year. The vast majority will stay and gain the right to free movement throughout the EU. Most do not threaten our security but among them are many Islamist extremists who do.

None of this was envisaged when we joined the EU. By leaving we will again be able to determine who does and does not enter the UK. Failure to do so significantly increases the terrorist threat here, endangers our people and is a betrayal of this country.

EU flag image by Justus Blümer