Working to keep us safe

Europe’s criminal gangs, people-smugglers and terrorist networks don’t respect borders — and it’s vital that our police and intelligence agencies work closely together too.

So EU countries have set up a law enforcement network known as Europol. British security services have a great deal of expertise here, and it’s in our own interests to spread that expertise as widely as we can among our neighbours and allies. Europol is headed by a Brit, Rob Wainwright, and it helps to coordinate some 40,000 cross-border police investigations every year.

Police and judicial powers remain at national level, with each country carrying out its own actions within its own borders. But Europol allows for coordination between all 28 countries as well as rapid access to vast amounts of information collected by our allies. That puts us at the heart of a continent-wide network which our own police tell us is central to the fight against crime.

Alongside Europol, we’ve also put in place a number of other EU-wide law enforcement mechanisms. The best known of these is the European arrest warrant, which not only empowers British courts to order the arrest of our most wanted men and women wherever they flee in Europe, but also enables us to remove criminals from our shores in a matter of days rather than decades. More than 5000 alleged criminals have been deported from the UK using the arrest warrant since 2010, to face justice in other countries for crimes committed there.

There are many other examples. To take just three: we can now pursue serious traffic offences committed in Britain by reckless drivers from other EU countries, even after the perpetrators have gone home. Restraining orders issued by UK courts now apply across Europe too — a potentially life-saving change for victims, only possible because of EU-wide agreements. And if a Brit is accused of a crime in another EU country, they now have the automatic right to English interpretation from the moment of their arrest.

These are real, concrete improvements in the security and wellbeing of British people, thanks to EU action. It delivers results every day. When one of the 2007 London bombers fled to Italy, he was arrested and returned to Britain inside of a week. And Spain’s notorious Costa del Crime of the 1970s and 80s is now “the worst place to go on the run” thanks to improvements in police cooperation and enforcement.

Time was when criminals fleeing British justice could hole up in a quiet corner of the continent and wait it out. And if we left the EU, continental criminals might be tempted to hole up here, as we’d be outside these various police cooperations and the European arrest warrant would no longer apply here.

In today’s European Union, there’s nowhere to hide. Let’s keep it that way!

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