Withdrawal from the EU could undermine Britain’s co-operation with European partners in the fight against terrorism and international crime, David Cameron has suggested.
The comment came after Downing Street sparked fury among Eurosceptics by claiming Brexit could free thousands of migrants in the Calais “Jungle” to travel to the UK and potentially create tent cities in towns like Folkestone.
We have that vital information, whether it’s about terrorists or criminals travelling around Europe, because we are part of those organisationsDavid Cameron
Advocates of withdrawal accused Number 10 of “scaremongering” over its claim that France could tear up the 2003 Le Touquet agreement which requires checks on cross-Channel lorries and trains to be carried on French soil.
But Mr Cameron raised the prospect that British withdrawal would put in doubt not only this arrangement, but also co-operation over terrorism and organised crime.
“If we can get this deal in Europe, if we can this renegotiation fixed and we can stay in a reformed Europe, you know what you get,” said the PM.
“You know that the borders stay in Calais. You know that we have a seat determining the rules when it comes to the future of Europe.
“You know that we have that vital information, whether it’s about terrorists or criminals travelling around Europe, because we are part of those organisations.”
He added: “The people who want to take a different path have to start answering some questions about what it would look like if we are not in that organisation and not party to those rules. I know they fear that, but the time will come pretty soon where they have to start answering questions.”
Asked whether Mr Cameron was concerned that information-sharing about terrorists could be scaled back if Britain left the EU, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The point the PM was making is that as part of the EU, we have a strong working relationship with other EU nations on a number of different levels in a number of different areas.
“Obviously, security is a core one. He talked specifically about the issue in Calais, but it is reflective of the fact that being part of the EU means there is that relationship with other member states.”
Earlier, a Number 10 spokesman said it was a “perfectly feasible scenario” that quitting the EU could result in Paris ending co-operation over border checks and “thousands of asylum seekers pitching up in south-east England effectively overnight”.
He said he could not rule out the suggestion the influx would be so great and sudden that it would result in Jungle-style camps being created in port towns such as Folkestone.