David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

The work goes on

The Caithness Courier, July 2016

After the Brexit vote and the political chaos that followed, Theresa May and her government are left with negotiating the costly and complex withdrawal process and trying to establish what Leave campaigners completely failed to do – a realistic vision of what a future for the UK outside of the EU will look like.

Until Article 50 has been triggered and the exit negotiations are complete, rules made in the EU will continue to apply in our country. During this time Labour MEPs will continue working and voting on EU legislation and working with colleagues to ensure that policies are in line with our values and relate to the important issues impacting on our citizens.

Nearly all European countries, including the UK have been affected by terrorism and recent attacks have demonstrated the challenge of finding a rapid and effective response. We must prevent the horrific attacks that cause so much suffering and generate such fear, but still safeguard our freedoms and way of life. To this effect the European Parliament has been working on a range of measures. MEPs are due to vote on plans to make the preparation of terror attacks a criminal offence throughout the EU as well as to impose checks on European citizens entering and leaving the EU. Last November we adopted a resolution on preventing radicalisation online and in prisons. Islamic State alone is believed to send out 100,000 tweets every day. Europol has also been given additional powers, enabling it to check and report on content on social media if necessary.

Some terrorist acts, such as commissioning attacks, are already a criminal offence under EU legislation, but new rules propose to add to this by making preparations a crime throughout the EU. This could include giving or receiving training in and outside Europe, financing terrorist activities or travelling abroad in order to participate in terrorist activities. The new proposal also deals with the issue of Europeans returning from conflict zones in order to commit terrorist attacks in the EU. Under the plan all EU nationals would have their details checked against databases of lost and stolen documents at external air, sea and land borders.

This year MEPs also approved new powers for Europol. Based in The Hague in the Netherlands, Europol is the EU's law enforcement agency, assisting national authorities by exchanging information, intelligence analyses and threats assessments. It was launched in 1999 and became an EU agency in 2010. It deals with terrorism and international crime such as cybercrime, drug smuggling and people trafficking and carries out more than 18,000 international investigations a year.

The new powers will allow the agency to set up specialised units more easily so that it can respond faster to emerging threats and in some cases Europol will also be able to exchange information with private companies. For example, Europol would be able to ask Facebook to remove pages run by Islamic State. These new powers are delicate, so must will be accompanied by strong data protection safeguards and democratic oversight rules.

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