Karen Bradley: No one wants to take a leap in the dark on bringing criminals and terrorists to justice
The highest duty of any government is to ensure the safety and security of the nation and its people. No part of the United Kingdom knows better than Northern Ireland the importance of effective law enforcement cooperation to keep our people safe. And the people of Northern Ireland will recall all too well the problems of the past - criminals and terrorists escaping justice due to a lack of effective cooperation to bring them to justice.
The people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union, and the government must deliver on that outcome. But the referendum result was not a vote to become less safe or secure. Neither were they voting to remove vital capabilities that the PSNI and other law enforcement agencies use to keep them safe.
That is why the outline terms of a comprehensive future security relationship agreed as part of our deal with the EU is right for Northern Ireland.
It will enable continued timely and effective exchange of important law enforcement data, such as passenger name records, DNA and fingerprints, so we can stay ahead of criminals. And it will allow us to keep working closely together on law enforcement, to ensure we bring those suspected of serious and organised crime and terrorism swiftly to justice, including through swift and effective extradition arrangements.
And let's not be in any doubt that this really matters. We must not be blind to the effects of this deal being rejected. There is a clear harm in reducing the cooperation between PSNI and An Garda Siochana. Doing so would significantly curtail their ability to counter terrorism, serious and organised crime, as well as deliver effective day-to-day policing on both sides of the border.
Rejecting the deal we have secured will have real implications and risks increasing pressure on law enforcement authorities. The PSNI and our agencies would have no clarity on what happens next March, but the deal means they will have certainty of an implementation period where existing tools and measures will continue, followed by an ambitious security partnership. If the deal is rejected, then instead of that certainty, we would need to revert to old mechanisms to facilitate cross-border cooperation which are slow and would cause considerable delays.
No one wants to take a leap in the dark on something as vital to Northern Ireland as security cooperation and bringing criminals and terrorists to justice. This moment calls for leadership in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. The small minority in Northern Ireland who advocate no deal rather than this deal need to be honest that they cannot address police concerns about the security cooperation that is so critical here.
As the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and as a Member of Parliament, I have to answer for how my decisions and my vote will help keep our streets and our communities safe. All of those weighing up whether or not to support this deal need to do the same.
Karen Bradley MP is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland