EUROPE faces the most severe threat from terrorism for a generation, a security chief has warned.

Rob Wainwright, the British director of EU law enforcement body Europol, also highlighted the risk posed by cyber crime and people-smuggling.

Appearing at the House of Commons Home Affairs committee, he said: “I am concerned about our ability in Europe on a collective basis to have the best possible capability to fight what are clearly more challenging and complex security threats that we face.

“Especially in cyber crime, in terrorism where we are facing across Europe the highest threat for a generation, in people-smuggling, which is a criminal community that has exploded in size and capability in the last two years.

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“In all of these areas of organised crime, cyber crime and terrorism, the threat is more challenging and defined in particular by its international cross-border nature.”

Europe has been hit by a number of attacks, including the atrocities in Paris and Brussels. 

It was revealed earlier this week that UK security services have foiled 13 potential attacks since June 2013. 

Mr Wainwright was quizzed about the future relationship between the UK and the body he heads after Brexit. He said the agency was “not
planning on Britain no longer being a member of Europol in at least one form or another” but acknowledged the agency would be weaker without active UK engagement.

He said: “The status of Britain’s involvement is going to change come what may, there’s no reason though that it can’t continue to exercise at least some significant influence but from a different position,” he said.

Europol is one of a number of bodies and security arrangements that have fallen under scrutiny in the wake of the EU referendum. 

Senior figures in policing and counter-terrorism have also highlighted the role played in their work by the European Arrest Warrant, a database of real time alerts, and the European Criminal Records Information System.

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The Government says co-operation on law enforcement and security with European and global allies remains a priority.