DAVID CAMERON may be starting to regret having made the EU referendum all about our safety.
In a major speech in November, the PM sought to move the debate off what he called “trade and commerce, pounds and pence” and on to “our national security”.
Three days later the world was shocked by the horror of the Paris bombings. Then came the organised sexual harassment of women in Cologne and other German cities. Now the abomination in Brussels. And, all the while, a migration crisis.
Safer in? Seriously? How are we safer as part of this collapsing project? How are we more secure giving clumsy Brussels institutions more control over our affairs?
Does it make sense for the EU to create, with Turkey, a visa-free zone that stretches from the Channel to the borders of Syria and Iran?
One by one, defence and security professionals have expressed their concerns.
Major-General Julian Thompson, who commanded our land forces in the Falklands, warns that “membership of the EU weakens our national defence in very dangerous times”.
Richard Walton, who until recently led Scotland Yard’s Counter-Terrorism unit, notes collaboration against terrorism has nothing to do with Brussels, and that “membership of the EU does not really convey any benefits.”
The former head of Interpol, Ronald Noble, says the EU’s border policy “is like hanging a sign welcoming terrorists to Europe”. Now our former intelligence chief, Sir Richard Dearlove, has written a devastating piece explaining why Britain will be safer outside the EU.
Sir Richard sees two big advantages in Brexit. First, Euro judges will no longer be able to stop us from deporting dangerous or undesirable foreigners.
Only last month, for example, we found out we couldn’t expel Abu Hamza’s daughter-in-law from the UK after a criminal conviction as it would violate her “fundamental status” as an EU citizen.
The second advantage is that we would have more control over who is allowed to enter Britain.
The Paris and Brussels atrocities tragically showed us that many potential terrorists hold EU passports.
We know, too, that Europe has lost control of its external borders, and that extremists are using the migration crisis to enter EU states.
The rules of the game, in other words, are changing. We opened our borders to the EU. It’s now clear that the EU has opened its borders to the world. That was never the deal.
No one is suggesting we stop co-operating with our European friends. Long before the EU got involved with criminal justice, we worked together through the Hague Convention, Interpol, extradition treaties and other international structures.
Nor is anyone suggesting that we leave Nato. And we certainly won’t stop sharing security tips.
As Sir Richard points out, we have the best intelligence capacity in the EU. This, he says, gives us a moral duty to pass on information, and he is quite right.
But it doesn’t follow that we should make the EU’s problems our problems.
For years to come the Continent will be dealing with two massive crises: The breakdown of the euro and the breakdown of the border-free Schengen zone.
Because we wisely stayed out of both schemes we have other options.
We can protect ourselves. We can turn our faces back to the wider world. We can focus on the growing markets of Asia, Africa and the Americas, instead of the stagnant eurozone.
For me, the strongest arguments for leaving the EU have always been the economic and democratic ones.
When we leave, we’ll have more money to spend on our priorities, more freedom to trade with countries outside Europe and more control over our laws.
But it must now also be clear that leaving the EU will make Britain more secure. We’ll be able to stop the wrong people coming in. And, if needed, we’ll be able to kick them out.
Leaving the EU won’t just make us wealthier and freer. It will make us safer.