Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: EU brinkmanship is a boon for terrorists

Editor's Viewpoint

The European Union's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has intentionally or unintentionally greatly raised the stakes by declaring that the UK cannot remain as a member of the European Arrest Warranty scheme (EAW) after Brexit.

He said "facts have consequences", and the UK's decision to leave the EU meant that the situation could not remain as it is now.

Mr Barnier suggested it would not be "fair" for the UK to keep all the benefits of EU membership.

However, the Chief Constable George Hamilton made it very clear that membership of the EAW is critical to his officers' continued collaboration with An Garda Siochana in ensuring that the border cannot be used by terrorists and other criminals to evade prosecution.

He said that the removal of the system, which allows EU members to ask for the arrest and detention of criminals in other countries without joint extradition talks, could endanger the safety of people in Northern Ireland.

The subject of extradition dogged relations between the UK and the Irish Republic in the late 1980s, and the Irish gained the reputation in some quarters, and not entirely undeserved, of being a safe haven for republican terrorists.

When requests to return suspected terrorists to Northern Ireland were stalled by the courts in Dublin, the legal arguments against extradition did little to reassure the unionists that the Republic was on the same page as the authorities in the North.

It is clear that criminality and terrorism is a transnational problem and that these terrorists and criminals are certainly no respecters of international boundaries.

According to MI5, dissident republicans still pose a significant threat in Northern Ireland, and this is definitely not the time to remove from the Chief Constable such a vital counter-insurgency measure.

It appears to some people that the EU may have set its face at making any UK exit from Europe as difficult as possible, but at their considerable peril they seem set on making things easier for terrorists and criminals at every turn.

Mr Barnier would do well to recognise that in this case the "benefits of EU membership" to which he refers work both ways.

The detailed negotiations are beyond the comprehension of most ordinary people, but it is they who will have to live with the outcome.

Belfast Telegraph

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