Leaving the EU will make the UK “less secure”, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson insisted today as he launched Labour’s In For Britain campaign.
Mr Johnson claimed Britain would lose the “deep co-operation” between European countries that membership provides if we voted to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum.
The Labour grandee also attacked anti-EU supporters for wanting to take the UK back to a “sepia-tinted world of the 1950s that never actually existed.”
Launching the in Birmingham, Mr Johnson argued the country would shift from “Great Britain to Little England” if it left the EU.
Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017.
Speaking this morning, Mr Johnson said: “The first duty of any government is to keep our country safe and I firmly believe that leaving the EU would leave our country less secure.
“From the European Arrest Warrant to cross-border data-sharing on terrorists, the speed of our response is vital and the lesson from Paris is clear: to tackle terrorism we must stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in Europe.
"The security of Britain is inextricably linked to the deep co-operation that membership of the EU provides.
“We must not cut ourselves off from cross-border efforts to tackle terrorism, keep our country secure and our people protected.
“And with challenges like the refugee crisis and Russian aggression on the EU’s borders, Britain is stronger when working with our allies, committed to peace, democracy and international law.”
Britain’s security is fast becoming a key theme of the referendum debate.
He said: “Our membership of the EU does matter for our national security and for the security of our allies, which is one reason why our friends in the world strongly urge us to remain in the EU.”
At the launch of the cross-party ‘Britain Stronger In Europe’ campaign in October, former police chief Sir Hugh Orde insisted that safety would be put at risk if the UK pulled out of the European Arrest Warrant or EU intelligence-sharing databases that helped combat crime.
He said: “My experience tells me if you are a robber in another country, you are a robber in this country. If you are a rapist, you are a rapist, and if you are a murderer, you are by definition extremely dangerous...If I was a villain somewhere else in Europe and I was escaping justice, I would be coming here because it’s going to take a lot longer to get you back.”
The anti-EU lobby hit back against claims Britain’s security would be diminished if we left the organisation.
Speaking less than a week after the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, Leave.eu co-founder Richard Tice said: “Never again should the In campaign, after the tragic events of last Friday night, never again should they say the United Kingdom is safer in the European Union.
“It is Nato our armed forces and the police who provide our security, not the European Union.”