Next in our series examining the impact of EU Membership in Sussex and the South East, we explore peace and security
Sussex was at the frontline during the Second World War given its proximity to London, and the fact that it was home to the beaches most likely to be used in a German invasion. Although the EU is not perfect, it has led to an unprecedented era of peace and security, and it is inconceivable that our neighbours could now engage in military action against us.
The European Arrest Warrant has been used to track down people wanted by the police in Sussex like schoolteacher Jeremy Forrest who ran off to France with a 15‐year‐old pupil. After eight days on the run, he was spotted in Bordeaux by a bar owner who alerted the police back in the UK. In a joint operation between Sussex and local French police, Forrest was arrested and sent back to the UK where he was subsequently convicted for child abduction. Another example is the case of convicted paedophile Roderick Macdonald, who was found in Malta after Lewes Crown Court issued a European Arrest Warrant when he had broken the terms of a suspended sentence for assaulting two young girls in Shoreham.
The creation of the EU has led to an unprecedented era of peace and security across Europe – it is now inconceivable that member states would go to war with each other. EU countries are integrated economically and socially, leading to greater security and greater influence in our relations with countries like the US, China and Russia. European co‐operation has also helped bring criminals to justice, with the European Arrest Warrant meaning that those who flee abroad after committing crimes can be apprehended and returned to the country where they committed the crime and face the consequences of their actions.
Preventing war in Europe
One of the founding concepts of the original European Coal and Steel Community ‐ the forerunner to the EU‐ was that it should work to prevent war in Europe. In 2012, the EU was given the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of this work.
By integrating the economies of each of its member countries, the EU has made it nearly impossible for member nations to go to war with each other ‐ and they haven't since the Second World War.
In addition to preventing war, the EU has also helped countries become modern democracies after years of dictatorship (in Greece, Spain and Portugal), and recover from decades of state socialism, both in East Germany and further east. By holding good governance, democracy and human rights as requirements for entry, the EU has managed to improve the standard of life across the continent.
Since the late 1990s the EU has expanded its conflict resolution operations beyond Europe and into countries such as Chad, Georgia and Afghanistan. These missions have included short‐term operations aimed at military crisis management, conflict settlement and rehabilitation, democratisation and societal reconciliation.
Protecting you from crime at home and abroad
It is not just in foreign policy that the EU is working to protect your safety. British citizens are now better protected from crime as a result of the creation of things like the European Arrest Warrant in 2004. The warrant means that criminals can no longer escape to other European countries to avoid arrest, putting an end to the 'Costa del Crime' and other previously safe havens for those who had committed crime in Britain.
The European Arrest Warrant had one of its most high profile uses following the failed July 21st bombings in the UK. Osman Hussain was extradited to Britain after he fled to Rome in Italy. This meant he was brought back to the UK to face justice for his actions.
The EU has also worked to protect victims' rights, particularly victims of domestic violence and harassment. In October 2012 the EU issued a new directive to improve protection of victims across Europe, making sure they are treated properly by all governments across Europe. One key aspect of this is ensuring that victims are guaranteed the right to an interpreter if they are a victim of crime. This means that you should not have to worry about not speaking the language if you are a victim of crime while abroad.
What happens if we leave?
While leaving one of the largest blocs of countries is unlikely to lead directly to an erosion of European security, it takes away Britain's seat at one of the biggest contributors to conflict resolution and global peacekeeping. We would also find it harder to extradite wanted criminals to and from Europe after losing our European Arrest Warrant. It could take years to set up separate agreements with all the other European countries, and during that time criminals who had committed crimes in Britain would be able to escape justice.