The official Opposition welcome this debate. In the run-up to the referendum in June last year and the months since, we have heard much about how our decision to leave the European Union will affect Britain’s economy. We have debated what it means for our businesses, our trading relationships, our nation’s finances and, most importantly, the personal finances of individuals and households throughout our country. That is all of deep concern to me and many other Members.
Of perhaps even greater significance is the threat to our national security that could come from our leaving the European Union and, in particular, the effect that doing so will have on the ability of our police to protect our citizens. Today, as we turn our focus to those issues, the Government need to provide stronger assurances that our nation’s security will not be compromised by our decision to leave the EU. I say gently to the Minister that while his long speech was strong on analysis and strong on detail about the institutions, we did not really hear anything about how we were going to do the things that he wants us to effect.
Some hon. Members lament the fact that in the 40-plus years since we decided to join the common market, it has become far more than simply a trading arrangement. Given the nature of the threats that we face, however, it is unsurprising that European countries have found it convenient to co-operate in other areas, including the field of justice and home affairs. Quite simply, it was in our national interest to do so, because the security threats that we face are not confined to our national borders. Whether we are fighting international terrorist networks, tracking down fugitives from justice, obtaining crucial information on the activities of suspects abroad or maintaining effective border controls, it simply makes more sense to act together. Those issues are paramount to our country and to the security of our citizens. Whatever our personal view on the EU referendum, we urgently need reassurance from the Minister that our national security and our ability to combat crime within our borders will not be compromised by the decision to leave. Many hon. Members have issues that they want to raise this afternoon.