Brian Monteith: It's safety first outside the EU

THE shamelessness of so many of our politicians has no limits. No sooner had people been violently killed in Brussels by the bombs of Muslim extremists than those who have put all Europeans at risk were telling us not to bring up the politics.

Friday, 25th March 2016, 6:50 am
Updated Saturday, 2nd April 2016, 4:56 am
A woman reacts during a minute of silence held at a makeshift memorial in front of Brussel's Stock Exchange on Place de la Bourse (Beursplein). Picture: AFP/Getty Images

I am all for there being a period of respect for the grieving but let’s be clear: these deaths are political and require a political response.

The mass murders in Brussels are a direct assault on Western values and liberties, on our belief in democracy and freedom of expression – the very things that have ensured the creativity, prosperity and peace that we enjoy, compared with countries that have brutal control and censorship.

What the politicians of the EU – such as the UK-appointed commissioner Lord Hill (whom you never elected) – and many others started saying was that we must all pull together. Europeans should support each other so we are stronger through our solidarity. EU president Jean-Claude Juncker (whom you never elected) said we needed to develop an EU security force. What absolutely empty rhetoric that will not stop one bomber moving across the EU and blowing himself up in a shopping mall, a metro station or an airport.

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We are in this mess with terrorist attacks because of some bad decisions by Western politicians over the last 15 years – but this has been made far worse by the failure of European Union leaders to recognise that their institutions and their decisions have opened the door to terrorists to visit their trade in death upon us.

It is therefore vital that the British public be able to have a say in what security arrangements exist to protect them. That’s called democracy and it’s called freedom of expression. It’s what my great grandfather willingly gave his life for in the First World War and my grandfather fought for in El Alamein, Italy and Germany in the Second World War. Saying we should not discuss the facts that the EU cannot control its external borders and is unable to check the movement of terrorists once inside them is all about shutting down debate.

Saying we should believe that the EU protects us from threats and we should stay in the European Union to be safer is the height of disrespect to the victims that died this week.

Anyone who heard the BBC security correspondent, Frank Gardner, explain how the Belgian intelligence and police are not up to the job and are poor at working with minority communities would realise how the UK is a far safer place because we did not sign up to open borders – and have superior security services. Bear this in mind from Gardner: “In France and Belgium the police and intelligence agencies hardly talk to each other, they share very little. Absurdly, for a Belgian police officer to find out what Belgian intelligence knows about a threat, he or she sometimes needs to learn it from the UK police, who learn it from UK intelligence, who learn it from Belgian intelligence.”

Anyone who has read the article in Prospect Magazine by Richard Dearlove, former boss of MI6 – which I highly recommend – will understand the UK is the leading European intelligence service and how leaving the EU will make no difference to our security. It is the EU member states that need us and will therefore share information to be able to access what intelligence we know and can give them.

If we want to save lives and be safe we need to get political and ask is it really safer to be in an EU that can’t control its borders and safer security intelligence?

Cruyff turned it on for all fans

2016 has been a truly awful year for the passing of great entertainers. David Bowie’s death from cancer surprised everyone given he had just released a new album and since then we have had Keith Emerson, Paul Daniels, Terry Wogan, Glenn Frey amongst many well-known names – but the death of Johan Cruyff is as much a shock as Bowie’s.

Cruyff had it all: poise, technique, strength and intelligence. Those of my generation that witnessed his displays for Ajax, Barcelona and most of all the Netherlands national team – despite smoking 40 a day – were blessed. His “total football” changed how teams played, but unfortunately not many in Scotland. Maybe Hearts could play in their Ajax strip as a tribute to him?

They’re supper smashing great

I was tickled to see how an article on our favourite Edinburgh chippies was trending ahead of everything else, from news about Hibs and Hearts to the interminable debate about extending the trams!

It’s easy for me, for nothing compares to Giovanni’s in Northfield Broadway, and it has to be a fish supper. Now that my days of deep-fried pizza are behind me, why would you want anything else?

It’s my Porty and I’ll cry if I want to

PORTOBELLO High School is to have an open day on June 4 to allow old pupils like me to say goodbye to the eight-storey-high building.

Sadly I can’t be there in body as I will be in Berlin, but my heart and mind will be there in spirit. I’ve still got my blazer with all its badges, my ties, my school opera programmes and countless photos and memorabilia.

My father went there, I went there and my sons went there. I owe that school and its teachers a great deal and it will be a sad day for me when the current high school is razed to the ground.