Norfolk migrant plot shows we need to stay in the EU, says MP

First Focus in Fakenham have had a showcase day to show the public what they do - MP Keith Simpson v

First Focus in Fakenham have had a showcase day to show the public what they do - MP Keith Simpson visits the groups showcase day. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A Norfolk MP said close cooperation with European Union partners was needed after it emerged there had been an attempt to smuggle Vietnamese and Albanian migrants into the UK through a remote Norfolk beach.

Keith Simpson, a member of parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, said the government needed to look again at how it monitors small ports and landing strips, but warned against hysteria in the wake of the Norfolk revelation and the rescue of 18 Albanians and two British people from the English Channel after their inflatable boat began to sink.

Mr Simpson, the MP for Broadland who is in favour of the Britain remaining in the European Union, said the government had quite rightly said the channel was the UK's best protection.

'It is a very dangerous sea. It is not easy to get across. That is not the say that people haven't traditionally used it. Even today you have had people smuggling drugs and high value goods by sea and air.'

But he said security services were working with allies.

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'The government needs to look again at what it needs to do to monitor small ports and landing strips to see if it needs more priority. But there is an element of hysteria about this. I would say to people who think the best solution is to leave the EU to think again. We are not part of Shengen [the border control free area]. I can't see if we were to leave the EU that the Belgian, Dutch and French would be more willing to cooperate to apprehend these people.'

He said Norfolk had always been a smuggling centre from the Roman era and in the 17th and 18th centuries it was known as the 'lawless coast' because of the fights between smugglers and revenue men.

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'The way you are going to deter and prevent that is by catching these people by confiscating boats and putting them in prison. For that we need close cooperation of our European partners.'

Sea Palling was the target destination of the plot, which was foiled when Dutch police intercepted the eight-berth yacht with 26 people on board off the country's coast.

Along with the migrants, military police found a map showing the north-east Norfolk village as the drop-off point – plus a lifeboat, life jackets and 'large amounts of peanut butter'.

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