The Archbishop of York has joined critics of the government's opt-out from the EU's new directive on sex trafficking, describing the decision as "stunning".
John Sentamu accused ministers of "sitting on the sidelines" while other countries try to tackle a cross-border problem, which is thought to be growing but has seen fewer traffickers jailed this year than at any time since 2005.
The Archbishop said the "evil trade, which is nothing less than modern-day slavery", requires joint international action with Britain playing a full part. Estimates suggest that 2,500 foreign women have been pimped into prostitution by gangs.
Writing in today's Yorkshire Post, Dr Sentamu said: "I am no great supporter of European directives because of the supremacy of our parliament, but this one seems to be commonsense, designed to coordinate action against the trade in slaves. Britain should get involved now and be part of improving the situation – not sat on the sidelines offering wise words only when the match is over.
"Our government should be ensuring that Britain leads the way, as it did in the days of William Wilberforce."
His plea for a change of heart follows a similar appeal from the Labour party earlier this week, backed by the charity Anti-Slavery International. The Home Office says that caution over the directive protects damage to other national interests, but that the country is already "working constructively with EU partners" to fight sex trafficking.
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