Much of the debate over Britain’s EU membership has so far focused on economics. But what about our security?
Many threats to our security are global problems, such as terrorism and cross-border crime. But how far, if at all, does membership of the EU help us in these areas? Are we safer as EU members?
There are three difficulties here. The first is the tendency for politicians and commentators to run often rather different issues of policing, intelligence and defence together.
The second is that we do not and in reality cannot ever have a clear understanding of this area, because of constraints of secrecy. The third is that those who do have real expertise are often already committed to IN or OUT and so not clearly independent.
In policing, the EU’s Prüm system facilitates the sharing of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data between different member state police forces. And over 400 criminals have been returned to face justice in Britain under the European Arrest Warrant. It seems likely that these arrangements would need to be replicated by a new negotiation if we left the EU.
On defence, the EU’s history is very mixed, as the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo two decades ago illustrated. But it is notable that thirteen of Britain's most senior former military commanders recently signed a public letter urging voters to back EU membership.
On intelligence, the former head of MI6 has argued that Britain’s borders could be strengthened in the event of Brexit and that our reputation as a leader in intelligence makes it unlikely that the EU would abandon security arrangements.
My second public meeting on the EU referendum takes place at the Larruperz Centre at 10.30am this Saturday, 7th May. So round up your friends and family and come along!