Defence, security and cooperation between France and the UK are all under threat if Britain leaves the European Union the former Ambassador to France has advised.
Lord Ricketts, who was the UK’s Ambassador to France until 2016 warned the UK will have to work harder on its relationship to ensure the two countries don’t drift.
But this was not the only deeply worrying concern to be voiced over the weekend. There were also concerns raised from campaigners and MPs who warned that leaving the EU without a deal could seriously jeopardise the efforts to combat anti trafficking.
Safe guards for those at risk will be removed; Jakub Sobik, from the charity Anti-Slavery International warned that if the UK loses access to key institutions which help to combat slavery then it will impact on the ability to dismantle trafficking networks.
We all know that access to Europol and the European Arrest Warrant is key to combatting this crime and having this access is key to fighting it Jakub warned.
And in a letter published by the Observer organisations including Amnesty International, Liberty the Fawcett Society and the National Aids Trust voiced their concerns over the EU Withdrawal Bill. They warned that the EU Withdrawal Bill will not protect people’s rights in the UK as the Government promised. The letter states: “This is in large part because the bill removes the EU charter of fundamental rights from our law.”
The common theme of the profound concerns raised by the various individuals and organisations named above is that if Britain leaves the European Union then its citizens become vulnerable; economically in terms of defence and security as well as protecting and safe guarding citizens’ rights. But especially in terms of protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.
Acting in such a solitary way will be harmful, destructive and encourages us to drift- but to where? And for what benefit when we have such structures and strategic relationships working so well.
With the advent of a new mandate I had a two day team meeting In Brussels for all my staff to plan for the future. Having come over on the Eurostar, my caseworker Colin Ellar arrived at the European Parliament only to face intense aggrravation from the Parliament’s security staff. At this juncture, I should say that Colin is a Labour Party stalwart, a former Leader of Hounslow Council he has worked all over Europe. With extensive experience of casework as a councillor, he also has undertaken a similar role for Alan Keen MP. He is also fluent in Italian, Dutch, French and Geordie! I note this because there was no question of there being any linguistic reasons for the treatment he received which he details below. In his varying roles he has been a regular visitor to the House of Commons for many years, and has attended other major institutions and Party Conferences. He is therefore very familiar with the security necessary to enter important buildings and events. This is his account of what he encountered. I am taking up these issues with the Parliament authorities.
Colin Ellar’s (pictured above) letter:
“I visited the European Parliament for the first time this week. What left the strongest impression on me was the chaotic manner in which staff and guests were treated in their attempts to enter the building.
Monday was slow and bureaucratic but coming back a day later was unbelievable.
To help give passes and authorisation for what must have been a queue of more that 60 people there were 3 assistants. Even at their fastest they were taking more than 5 minutes to process one pass. That was bad enough as more people started to get irritated with the lengthy wait, but there was the stupidest system of hierarchy where in order to be signed in to the Parliament building you needed a full time employee or a MEP with a particular level of access to come and collect you and accompany you at all times. The “stagiare” or trainee who came to collect us did not have the right grading and we were sent back in the queue.
Eventually our “minder” came to collect us, but he was refused permission to accompany our IT expert as his 2 day pass was in the name of another MEP. He had thought ahead and had a 2 day pass issued from a visit the previous day because he was familiar with how slow and bureaucratic the Parliament could be. “Close the barriers” was the call of the top security man as he insisted a staff member from the MEP who was visited the previous day was summoned. We lost another 15 minutes while someone was found to bring them to our office. In total we took just over 1 hour to gain access tot he building even though we had all papers prepared, signed, authorised and in order from when we arrived. I am so frustrated to see public money being wasted in this fashion.
On the first day each of us had to take our laptops out of our bags and sign them in. Day two this process was ignored and we all walked past the man who performed the task. Why was there no consistency? Why did you have to do it in the first place one might ask, as no one was checking them out of the building?
The impression was given of a very bureaucratic system with a tapestry of rules where an overworked handful of staff were unsupported, and unable to use their discretion and common sense. As there was no senior supervisor to be seen, at every minor problem the processing ground to a halt. The ever growing group of highly articulate visitors to the Parliament building became angrier and more frustrated with the difficulty of entering the building. A few metres away on the other side of the barriers security staff from the same company stood gossiping with little to do and ignoring the mounting queues.
In contrast I have visited the British Parliament dozens of times and whereas the screening is like an airport and more rigorous, the process is efficient and fast and at no time do you feel that this is for any other reason than for your own and other people’s security.
Nightmare, insane, idiotic, deliberately obstructive are the words that were voiced in Brussels. Is this the message that the European Parliament wants to impress on everyone that comes to visit or work? I could not think of a better way to destroy the reputation of this institution.”