Britain's citizens could be left more vulnerable to attacks by terror groups and organised crime gangs if they decide to leave the European Union, the continent's policing agency warned today.
"I see a very clear picture of the United Kingdom's dependency on the EU to help protect its security interest," Europol's director Rob Wainwright said in The Hague.
Should Britain leave in a so-called "Brexit" it will "no longer have the benefits that it currently has," Wainwright told reporters in The Hague, speaking on the sidelines of a conference on combatting migrant smugglers into Europe.
This included "direct access to our database, the ability to involve itself into our intelligence projects and many other areas," he said.
Europol's warning follows remarks by British Prime Minister David Cameron over the weekend that a Brexit would offer "risk in a time of uncertainty."
Britain would be "safer, stronger and better off" in the 28-member bloc, Cameron said Saturday after announcing June 23 as the date for a referendum on the issue.
The issue has deeply divided Britain's ruling Conservative Party with five cabinet members as well as London's outspoken mayor Boris Johnson supporting the "Leave" campaign, and the country's continued security is a key issue.
Following Cameron's remarks, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC that staying in the EU would make the country more vulnerable to Paris-style attacks.
And Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who also backs an exit, told British media that the EU's policies "have become a source of instability and insecurity," which has encouraged extremism.
Wainwright however said even if Britain would negotiate an agreement with Europol in the event of leaving "it will not be a full member any longer and will not enjoy the benefits.