Scott Mann is the Conservative MP for North Cornwall.
The European Union has transformed from a well intentioned trade arrangement when we entered, into the large federal state over which Great Britain has little control or influence. The debate so far has focussed on a number of facets including trade, the economy and free movement, however little has been said about security.
The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Belgium have brought sharply into focus the need to provide the necessary resources for our security services and our local police. The Investigative Powers Bill which came before Parliament has given our agencies enough scope to investigate modern forms of communication.
We have a great team of people in this country keeping us safe as we sleep, protecting us from the potential and very real dangers of the modern world. Both national security services and localised policing, should I believe see an increase in budgets following an exit from the European Union.
Campaigning in a marginal seat brings a number of things quickly into focus. We have knocked on many, many doors and over the past three years. I have knocked on more doors than when I was a postman. From numerous doorstep conversations it is clear that there is little love in North Cornwall for the EU. From talking with so many constituents, one topic comes up over and over again; local policing. A sentiment commonly expressed in North Cornwall and I would imagine echoed in many other parts of the country is: “I cannot remember the last time I saw a local policeman or women on the beat”.
This is not a slight on the police but rather an effect of the changing nature of policing. In recent years overall crime has fallen but many people still do not feel safer. The focus of policing has changed and resources are under pressure, so it is right that the police have to adapt to new priorities, such as dealing with cybercrime and keeping our children safe online. However, I believe that in the event that we leave the EU, we should celebrate regaining control of our finances with a commitment to restoring local policing and use just some of the EU saving to put more police back on our streets.
The UK has been contributing to the EU since 1973. The current net value of our contribution is £8.5 billion a year and therefore if we left the EU, this would represent a saving; a saving that could be ring-fenced and the money distributed across key areas of society. There is certainly a need to start paying down the deficit faster and start eating into the debt, but there is certainly some wiggle room for what is considered important.
We could increase the police budget by ten per cent - which would put an awful lot more police on the street – and still have 90 per cent of the saving available to spend. The policing budget from central government is £8.2 billion. The security services budget is £2.48 billion (total commitment via the single intelligence account). So the combined police and security services budget is approximately £10.75 billion. This is currently a modest 0.5 per cent of GDP and another 0.5 per cent Brexit commitment would see a doubling of the security budget overnight.
In fact, we could spend £850 million extra each year on the areas of policing, the NHS, small business start ups and education…and still have used only half of the EU saving.
We have backed our troops with a two per cent GDP commitment to protect our international security. I believe it’s time we did the same for our national security.