By David Poyser
A recent poll showed marked Eurosceptic shift in the wake of the Paris attacks, and after the United Kingdom Independence party and its allies used the refugee crisis to use fear on immigration as part of their case for Brexit. Between now and the referendum, pro-European progressives will have to keep on showing how European cooperation is actually helping us all on a daily basis on security as well as in other areas of life. In a recent interview, a Brexit-supporting business spokesperson said he feels the European Union makes it easier for terrorists to travel from Greece to Syria ‘and to the whole of the EU’. While he fudges over the interviewer’s simple riposte that as Britain is not in Schengen anyway (his point is therefore irrelevant to the Brexit debate), he is apparently also blissfully unaware of the day-to-day safety provided by organisations like Europol to him and his employees.
Based in the Netherlands, Europol has no direct powers of arrest but supports law enforcement in EU member states by gathering, analysing and disseminating information and coordinating their operations. Its support role in the Paris terror attack is rightly not currently in the public domain but we do know that, for example, 28 children were rescued as part of a major joint operation led by the Met and Europol. Through Europol, the Met and the Romanian National Police a total of 126 people were arrested for offences including trafficking human beings, money-laundering, benefit fraud and child neglect.
The Leave campaign knows full well that it can play to public prejudices on immigration. In the light of the Paris attacks this may become more fraught. Whatever the facts, certain Brexit supporters will say some variation of ‘free movement is a plot by the liberal-minded elite to use cheap labour, that takes British jobs, and hand out UK taxes for foreign welfare scroungers’ (and/or foreign-born terrorists). The Leave campaign also knows that, after the economic benefits of EU membership, polling evidence shows that many believe the EU also provides stronger security in a dangerous world through safety in numbers, and that if you analyse the pro-‘Remain’ vote, that it is a younger, internationalist demographic that is unfortunately less likely to turn out to vote than the older, anti-EU vote. The Independent poll showed that 69 per cent of 18-24-year-olds want to remain in the EU, while only 38 per cent of the over-65s wanting to remain after the Paris attacks.
Given the closeness in the polls, and the greater need to persuade the progressive Remain voters of the importance of turning out on the day, Labour progressives must actively refute the spurious arguments, which will no doubt change according to the week’s news.
David Poyser is a Labour Councillor in Islington and Treasurer of the Labour Movement for Europe.