The debate on the merits of Britain’s membership of the European Union has continued to be passionate and wide-ranging in the North East recently.
Between 2010 and 2015, the region’s three police forces extradited 95 foreign criminals to face justice using the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). The EAW was also used by North East police to bring back seven British criminals to face proceedings in the region’s courts.
Northumbria Police deported 48 criminals and aalso used the EAW scheme to return six criminals to the UK.
For example, in 2011, rapist John Renner Dillon was given a life sentence at Newcastle Crown Court after Northumbria Police uncovered new DNA evidence about a 1982 offence for whichhe was originally found not guilty. He was arrested in Dublin using the EAW.
Child sex offender Peter Melling was also arrested using the EAW in Bulgaria in 2008. He and other members of a child sex ring were jailed after targeting children in the North East and beyond over an eight-year period.
Vera Baird, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Police, said: “The European Arrest Warrant helps us keep our communities safe. Criminals will be found and dealt with thanks to the European Arrest Warrant.
“In 2015, here in the Northumbria Police force area, we extradited nine criminals to their home countries such as Germany, Poland and Italy so they could be accountable fortheir actions, which included grievous bodily harm, robbery and importing class A drugs. The force has also used the European Arrest Warrant to bring people back to this country and have successfully seen them convicted for the crime they committed.
“Don’t let anyone say that criminals can hide in Europe – they can’t and being part of the European Union has allowed our force to extradite criminals and ensure those who have fled this country are returned. If we aren’t in Europe, we will lose this valuable policing asset.”
Meanwhile, North East Ukip MEP Jonathan Arnott has raised concerns about the number of people migrating to the UK – whichever way you count it.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggest 257,000 EU migrants came to the UK between September 2014 and September 2015, but statistics for the same period show 630,000 National Insurance numbers were allocated to EU nationals, which was seven per cent higher than the previous year.
The ONS and the Government said that the NI numbers are not a good way of measuring immigration and say the International Passenger Survey provides the best estimate.
“It obviously suits the Government to prefer the method giving the lowest estimate, but even using the ONS figures that is still far too many EU migrants coming here thanks to the freedom of movement rules,” said Mr Arnott.
“The International Passenger Survey involves giving a questionnaire to people at random as they arrive at sea and airports. In this day and age that is hardly a modern or accurate method. It’s like ‘guess the number of sweets in a jar’ competition except it is actually possible to count the sweeties.
“I am particularly concerned about the effect uncontrolled immigration has in the North East which suffers from high unemployment with the knock-on effect that has on the community. There is only one way to get a grip on immigration and that is to leave the EU and regain control of our borders. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do that by voting for Brexit on June 23.”
On the other side, jobs and unemployment were highlighted as a new Treasury analysis suggested a Brexit could cost 44,000 North East jobs with the economy tipped into recession.
Hexham’s Conservative MP Guy Opperman said: “Times are hard – why would you want to damage our North East economy? There is no doubt that Brexit would make the North East worse off. I can talk about impacts to GDP, to our jobs, house prices and more. But the bottom line is this; we place the North East’s long-term recovery at risk if we leave.”
Back in the Brexit camp, Ukip MEP Mr Arnott has slammed the decision of the EU Commission to delay its budget until late June, after the referendum.
“This is classic behaviour by these manipulative faceless bureaucrats, said Mr Arnott, who is a member of the EU’s Budget Committee. “The Commission is treating people like mushrooms, keeping them in the dark and feeding them manure.
“EU membership costs the UK a huge bag of cash each day, but the European Commission wants to keep the British public in the dark about exactly how much this will increase.”
However, the Commission has said that the draft proposal required extra preparation time in order to factor in new spending to deal with the migration crisis and that there was no link between the delay and the June 23 vote.
Mr Arnott also criticised a delay in eco-design proposals which will affect items such as toasters, kettles and hair-dryers and have been in the pipeline for more than two years. “These restrictions on small household appliances will be just the forerunner of a deluge of such prohibitions coming our way if we stay in this failing economic bloc,” he said.