With Britain going to vote on Thursday (June 23) to decide whether it should be part of the European Union (EU), London-based counter-terrorism think-tank Quilliam Foundation has said that Brexit will not help check terrorism.
The think-tank has conducted a study to assess the impact of Britain’s exit from the EU especially on security and terrorism in the wake of recently terror attacks in Paris and Brussels. According to the study, Britain may manage to curb immigration if it leaves the 28-member bloc, but can’t tackle terrorism. In its report – titled ‘The EU and Terrorism: Is Britain Safer In or Out?’, Quilliam Foundation said that the outcome of Thursday’s referendum would have a huge impact on Britain’s fight against terrorism and extremism. The study tries to address implications of Brexit on various sensitive issues, like counter-terrorism co-operation, intelligence sharing arrangements, counter-extremism efforts, migration and border controls and foreign policy tools.
The report says: “With the de-territorialisation of security policies, the end of traditional notions of war and rapidly changing threat dynamics driven by the Age of Behaviour, European security has become an increasingly complex and multi-dimensional issue. There is no formula that can calculate the outcome of a Brexit on our security and most importantly, even if there was a formula, there would be too many unknown variables to resolve it.”
Researchers observe that a number of EU member states perceive further security integration as problematic because of concerns about the security of information. As a result, they prefer bilateral exchange of information. France and Belgium have ignored Brussels’ call for strengthening the level of European intelligence sharing and decided to boost bilateral security co-operation in light of the Paris and Brussels attacks, instead of pursuing European integration in the field. Quilliam Foundation believes that “leaving the EU may be a waste of existing structures and relationships and may initially incur high transaction costs, but will not impact the functionality of Britain’s intelligence capabilities”.
As per the report, leaving the EU may help Britain curb immigration (if London increases its investments in border controls), but terrorism will remain a threat. The think-tank has opposed the idea that there is a correlation between immigration and terrorism, saying that “Britain will remain a terrorism target regardless of its EU membership”. The report quoted NATO’ head (Counter-Terrorism Section) Juliette Bird as saying: “Brexit may not be particularly impactful for either the UK’s national security or the EU’s overall security and that leaving the EU would be a waste of relationships and structures the UK has helped to build up until now.”
Quilliam Foundation further claimed that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has become the new benchmark for effective, trans-national communication, stressing: “Europe and the US are confronted with a full-blown global jihadi insurgency. ISIS is just one manifestation. Modern Islamist terrorism is not a threat stemming from certain groups or organisations, but from a meta-physical idea that has evolved over time.”
Meanwhile, Britons are ready to take part in the historic referendum. Britain had a referendum in 1975 shortly after it had joined the EU (or Common Market as it was then called). The country voted to stay in then, but there have been growing calls for another vote because (they argue) the EU has changed a lot in the last 40 years. British Prime Minister David Cameron resisted these calls initially, but gave in in 2013. He leads the campaign for Britain to stay in the bloc. Cameron’s argument is largely focused on economics.
People, who are in favour of Brexit, are of the opinion that Britain is being held back by the EU, which imposes too many rules on business and charges billions of pounds a year in membership fees for little in return. They want Britain to take back full control of its borders and reduce the number of people coming in to work. On the other hand, people, who are against Brexit, believe that Britain gets a boost from EU membership. According to them, the membership makes it easier for Britain to sell things to other EU countries. They also believe that the flow of immigrants fuels economic growth and helps pay for public services.
The June 23 referendum has not only polarised public opinion, but also exposed the deep divide in the British political class. The British political class is well aware of the fact that the outcome of referendum could set off global tremors.
Interestingly, some people in Prime Minister Cameron’s Conservative Party are supporting Brexit. Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson has criticised the deal his friend “Dave” has made with the EU. He urges people to “take back control of this great country’s destiny” by leaving the EU. Johnson may replace Cameron as PM, if Brexit were to happen. British Justice Secretary Michael Gove, a friend of the PM, is also backing the leave campaign and so is the Leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insists that the UK is better off in the EU, but calls for Europe “to change dramatically to something much more democratic”. Nigel Farage, who leads the right-wing UK Independence Party, wants his country to exit, citing migrant crisis, and calls EU a disaster zone.
Legendary currency speculator George Soros warned on Tuesday that the pound is almost-certain to fall steeply and quickly, if “Leave EU” wins. He said that Brexit would also have an immediate and dramatic impact on financial markets, investment, prices and jobs.
As campaigning renewed on Tuesday after a three-day suspension following the murder of Pro-EU Labour MP Jo Cox, the Remain camp (44%) appeared to be gaining ground. Prior to Cox’s murder, polls had shifted towards “Leave” (45%), but the tide may now have shifted ever so slightly in favour of the “Remain” camp. Opinion polls consistently show that just over 10% of Britons have not made up their minds.
On Thursday, British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens (over 18 who are resident in the UK), along with UK nationals living abroad, will cast their votes. Members of House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will also be eligible to participate in the referendum. However, citizens from EU countries, apart from Ireland, Malta and Cyprus, will not get a vote.