This site contains government information on the EU referendum. No material was published on this website between 27 May and 23 June 2016, in line with the restrictions set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

Safety and security

The EU referendum takes place on the 23rd June. On this page you'll find some frequently asked questions on the UK's safety and security and the Government's answers to these questions.

Wouldn’t leaving the EU allow us to take back control of our borders?

The UK already has control over its borders. We operate border controls, and conduct security-related checks on the passports of individuals entering the UK from continental Europe. Since 2010 we have refused entry to over 6,500 EU nationals at the UK border and over 100,000 people in total have been refused entry to the UK. Our special status in Europe means that we are not part of the Schengen border-free area, a group of 26 European countries that have abolished passport and border controls between their internal borders.

What does the Free Movement of People mean?

The Free Movement of People gives all citizens of EU countries, including UK citizens, the right to travel, live and work wherever they wish within the EU. It does not give EU citizens the ability to come to the UK with the intention of living off public funds or to stay here if they commit a serious crime.

Given we are members of NATO, what damage would leaving the EU actually do to our security?

NATO is the cornerstone of the UK’s defence. But there are a number of EU mechanisms that help to build UK security and respond to threats, including sanctions and programmes to protect civilians. Recent examples are the imposition of sanctions on Russia and assistance to Ukraine. NATO chief, Jens Stoltenberg, has said that ‘a strong Europe is good for NATO, and a strong NATO is good for Europe’.

Cooperation within the EU bolsters our domestic security by helping UK law enforcement agencies to tackle challenges, such as serious organised crime and terrorism that cut across national borders. Since 2004, using the European Arrest Warrant, over 1,000 suspects have faced justice in the UK and over 7,000 have been extradited from the UK to face trial or serve a sentence. EU membership means UK police can use law enforcement intelligence from 27 EU countries. Through the EU we are members of Europol, the EU organisation that helps to fight serious crime and terrorism.

Will the UK be forced to join a European army if it remains in the EU?

No. The Prime Minister has made it clear that the UK would veto any suggestion of an EU army. The EU has no armed forces of its own and no defence budget. The EU does not have control over the UK’s armed forces – our military can and do act independently of the EU. And our new settlement reconfirmed that national security is the sole responsibility of Member States.

Does being in the EU damage our intelligence links with our Five Eyes partners?

No. All of our most important non-EU intelligence partners – the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – have made it clear that they want the UK to remain in the EU.

Aren’t we safer outside of Europe?

No. Europe is our immediate neighbour. What happens in Europe affects the UK, whether or not we’re in the EU. Cross-border threats mean that it is more important than ever that we have the best possible cooperation with those nearest to us. The EU provides important mechanisms for sharing law enforcement information, such as Europol, and access to databases and tools that support us in fighting crime. This includes systems like SIS II, which provides real time alerts on suspected terrorists and other serious criminals, and the newly agreed Directive on the use of Passenger Name Records, which will give all EU countries the ability to identify potentially dangerous criminals and terrorists before they travel, helping prevent them from reaching the UK.

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