Suzanne Lynch: Britain is more secure inside Europe than outside

Theresa May knows Britain had the best of both worlds when it came to security and borders

The horrific Bastille Day attack in Nice and surge in violence in Germany has rekindled fears and public concerns about security in Europe. The issue is likely to inform elections in both countries next year.

The boos and jeers that greeted prime minister Manuel Valls during a ceremony in Nice this month were an expression of a visceral fear and anger of a population that no longer trusts its government.

Faced with a complete lack of control over the actions of those such as Nice attacker Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, people will instinctively hit back through the one means of control they possess – their vote at the ballot box.

Predictions that Marine Le Pen will secure a place in the second round of presidential elections seem well-founded.


The recent attacks have also fed into the British debate about Europe, a month after the referendum.

In the days following the Nice attack, leading Eurosceptic Nigel Farage blamed the EU border system, arguing that Islamic State had threatened to use the migrant crisis to flood the continent with jihadists.

The notion that Britain would be safer outside the European Union was one of the key arguments of the Leave campaigners in the British referendum.

In fact, the exact opposite is the case. Just ask current prime minister Theresa May.

In April the former home secretary delivered a key speech on the forthcoming referendum. An exit from the European Union, she said, would leave Britain less safe.

She cited the European Arrest Warrant which had allowed Britain to extradite more than 5,000 people from Britain to Europe in the previous five years and bring 675 criminals to Britain.

The extradition of Hussain Osman, the man who threatened to blow up the London Underground in 2005, took 56 days, she said – previously that process took more than 10 years.

Similarly, she cited new EU passenger name records legislation which will oblige airlines to pass passenger details to authorities, the Schengen Information System, the prisoner transfer framework and Europol.

These are “practical measures that promote effective co-operation . . . if we were not part of them Britain would be less safe . . . Remaining a member of the European Union means we will be more secure from crime and terrorism.”

Legislation opt-out

Britain, in fact, had the best of both worlds when it came to security and borders – as a non-Schengen member it retained control of its borders, while it also negotiated an opt-out of EU justice and home affairs legislation, opting back in to those parts of European justice and home affairs (JHA) law it liked.

One month on from the British referendum on EU membership, the cold reality of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is setting in.

The implications for Britain’s security situation and border control is just one strand of a staggeringly complex picture as Britain begins the task of extricating itself from 43 years of directives, regulations and trade deals.

Britain is bound by more than 12,000 EU regulations. It is also tied into pan-European regimes that touch every corner of industry, from EU competition law to the European Common Aviation Area, which allows for a single market in aviation, to EU climate change and energy policy.

Some of the changes arising from Brexit will be more detrimental to the remaining 27 member states than to Britain. Chief among these is the EU budget.

With Britain’s net contribution touching €10 billion last year, the remaining 27 members will have to decide whether to fill Britain’s budgetary hole with extra national contributions or accept a smaller EU budget with knock-on impacts on areas like agriculture and research.

Britain's exit will also affect EU climate change targets, raising the possibility that countries like Ireland, which is already in danger of missing its targets due to agriculture emissions, will have to comply with higher targets to meet the EU's overall goal.

Britain's absence from the EU foreign policy stage will also have ramifications given its role in EU missions in the Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa.

Given Britain’s opposition to a European army in the past, Brexit has also given renewed impetus to the idea of a common EU defence policy, a development that would be highly sensitive for Ireland.

Enormous costs

However the costs to Britain will also be enormous. Three specific areas of the economy will likely to be adversely affected in the immediate term.

The City of London’s relationship with the single market will be thrown into jeopardy if British institutions are denied access to the coveted “passporting” system which allows firms to trade with the EU.

British farmers will lose access to the Common Agricultural Policy, although Leave campaigners have promised it will be replaced by the central budget.

Thirdly, British academia is likely to be badly hit given the high dependence of British research on science and research funding from Brussels.

There are reports that British applicants for grants are already losing out.

While all of the above will be up for negotiation, the sheer number of issues means that something will have to give.

British officials working in the European Commission have already been told not to expect much help from the government once the negotiations commence, given the raft of issues that need to be resolved.

The honeymoon period may be in full swing for May and her cabinet, but the divorce discussions have yet to begin.

Britain is facing its biggest diplomatic challenge in generations. Expect a costly, lengthy and hugely damaging divorce.

Suzanne Lynch is Irish Times European Correspondent