Good afternoon conference.
I was delighted to be appointed by Paul Nuttall to be the party’s spokeswoman for Home Affairs, a portfolio which lies at the very heart of how this country is run, from border controls and immigration, via policing and the judiciary and courts.
During the referendum it was the ceding of powers to Brussels, leading to murderers and rapists entering the country and the Court of Human Rights putting the safety of people who wish an end to our very way of life which encouraged people to vote for Brexit and regain sovereignty.
But post referendum, we still have many unanswered questions, including the supremacy of UK courts and the strength of our border agency to provide that safety and security the British people voted overwhelmingly in favour of.
We are always being given banal lines that the ‘Home Office is committed to strong borders’ but the evidence points to rock bottom morale in the agency and continued failures.
In an article for the Huffington Post, former police officer Chris Hobbs described our borders as “a shambles” and warned of a ‘disaster of post Brexit border controls which will be most apparent at our major air and sea ports.’
This isn’t because of legislation, this is because of failures in the Home Office to properly fund the border agency.
Perhaps they were busy winding it down ready for the creation of the EU’s coastguard and border agency, which mysteriously disappeared from the European Parliament’s agenda when the referendum debate was in full flow and was rescheduled for MEPs to vote on in July after the historic decision had been made.
Mr Hobbs reports that of 300 graduates recruited three years ago, most have left. The Home Office’s own staff survey shows that the morale of UKBF front line officers is at rock bottom with little confidence in both senior managers and government ministers. This inability to retain staff not only costs money but it means the agency misses out on the expertise that comes with experience.
And the UK’s coastal patrol is embarrassingly small, with just three vessels for the whole of the UK coast line. You’d have greater numbers at a blustery summer regatta.
Luckily, we have other resources to fall back on when the Home Office fails - which it does often.
Five Iranian men were spotted on the East Sussex coast last summer by an eagle eyed bird watcher, whose quick call to the police meant they were able to catch the group before they left.
But then - and this is quite breathtaking - they were let go by the Border Force.
In a statement, the Home Office said:
“Sussex Police arrested five men on suspicion of entering the UK illegally. The five were passed to Border Force for interview.
“All five must now report regularly to the Home Office while their cases are progressed in line with immigration rules. We are unable to comment further as investigations are ongoing.”
There are hundreds of illegal immigrants arriving each week, many sneaking through thanks to people traffickers, and when we do manage to catch some, thanks to a twitcher with some field glasses, we let them go. I wonder how many of them did actually ‘report back regularly’.
This incident happened in Amber Rudd’s own constituency of Winchelsea. But she’s not the first Home Secretary to have a pretty poor record.
Theresa May oversaw six years of incompetence when she was at the helm, including making the decisions to cut numbers in the Border Force.
In her speech outlining her plans for Brexit, she also left open the possibility that we would still be part of EU schemes which are diametrically opposed to independence.
I want Mrs May to confirm the UK will not be part of schemes which are diametrically opposed to the independence the British people voted for, particularly in the transitional arrangements she mentioned.
We cannot have the UK being part of EuroPol, the European Arrest Warrant or FRONTEX if we are to be a truly sovereign country.
These schemes require EU law to be supreme to UK law which is the fundamental legal basis underpinning the Brexit movement.
Whilst I want Europe to have its own strong borders I want the UK's priorities to be on its own re-energised border agency, I want only UK law to apply in the UK and I do not want any of our military, police or other agencies being draftedin as part of an EU scheme, wearing the flag of that political bloc which the people of this country firmly rejected.
The Prime Minister must address these issues of sovereignty which were glossed over as if they were an aside rather than a central tenet of the principles of independence.
I hope Mrs May will clarify these questions as they are intrinsic to whether or not we actually have true Brexit.