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09/12/2016

‘Britain safer outside the EU? Bollocks!’, says Tory MEP

Justice & Home Affairs

‘Britain safer outside the EU? Bollocks!’, says Tory MEP

Sajjad Karim [European Parliament]

Anyone arguing that Brexit would make the UK safer and more secure after the Brussels terror attacks is talking “bollocks”, a leading Tory MEP has declared.

Sajjad Karim was the Tory-led European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group’s 2014 candidate for European Parliament President. He is campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU ahead of the 23 June referendum.

Karim was asked by EurActiv about an opinion piece written by Eurosceptic Tory MEP Daniel Hannan in the Sun newspaper after the attacks.

Hannan argued that the Schengen passport-free zone could cost Britain control of its borders. He wrote, “It must now also be clear that leaving the EU will make Britain more secure. We’ll be able to stop the wrong people coming in. And, if needed, we’ll be able to kick them out.”

“Bollocks,” Karim said, using a British slang term for nonsense, “and you can quote me on that.”

Karim pointed to comments made last week by British Home Secretary Theresa May in the House of Commons.

May stressed the need to work closely and share intelligence with other EU member states to counter terrorism. The European Commission also called for more intelligence sharing after the bombings.

He said, “I am much more inclined to give more credence to what the Home Secretary than I am to Dan Hannan, who has had no experience of national politics, government or administration or indeed policymaking at an EU level – unlike Theresa May.”

Karim’s comments highlights the deep divisions between British Tory MEPs over Brexit.

ECR leader Syed Kamall has backed Brexit but the majority of MEPs support their Prime Minister David Cameron’s desire to stay part of the bloc.

ECR chief backs Brexit

Britain’s most senior Conservative MEP has said he will vote for the UK to leave the European Union at the 23 June referendum.

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Safer?

“Without the deepest level of cooperation with those collectively threatened – none of us is safer,” Karim said, “There is no safety in isolation in trying to deal with a global terrorist threat.”

“What has happened in Brussels has been nothing short of complete intelligence and security failure. Unless we get these angles right, it will be too easy for likes of ISIS to carry out such sophisticated operation at any place and time they want.”

He added, “Attacking Belgium [for perceived security failures] in these circumstances is just grotesque. These failures are really collective failures.”

Witness

Karim witnessed the arrival of emergency services after the horrific bombing of Maelbeek metro station on 22 March in Brussels.

“They were quite a lot of people pouring out of Maelbeek station,” Karim, who has a flat nearby, said, “they were clearly panicked.”

It was the second time that Karim, a Muslim whose parents emigrated to the UK from Pakistan in the 1960s, has faced terror close-up.

He was in the lobby of Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace hotel when it was stormed by Islamist gunmen in November 2008, in attacks that killed 164 people.

Schengen and security

Shortly after the Brussels bombings, British politicians and campaigners rushed to argue that they proved their point of view.

Schengen and security fuels Brexit debate after Brussels attacks

British campaigners and politicians on both sides of the debate over the UK’s membership of the EU today were swift to cite the Brussels terror attacks as evidence to support their points of view on the Brexit referendum.

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Karim, who was forced to move from his Blackburn home after being  targeted by the far right England Defence League, said the attacks would not convince UK voters to back Brexit.

“Populists try and confuse the right of freedom of movement with non-EU immigration and the refugee situation, lumping them together to try and confuse the electorate. Thankfully they are not succeeding,” he said.

Most of the debate after the Brussels attacks was focusing on the fact that the terrorists were homegrown, according to Karim.

“It was Brits that carried out the 7/7 attacks in London and what happened in Brussels was carried out by Europeans – there are Belgian born and bred,” he said.

Karim said he had huge sympathy for those killed or injured in the attacks but that he was also angry and confused.

“Confusion because here once again are EU citizens who are willing to turn on their own country and fellow European citizens for an ideology that is clearly being hatched elsewhere.”

Karim said, “This is not just an attack on Brussels but an attack on Europe as a whole. Terrorists aim to divide us as a society. While there is political posturing from certain populists to fulfil that agenda, the overwhelming majority of Europeans will not allow that to happen.”

Maelbeek bomb survivor: I will get back on the Brussels metro

A survivor of the Maelbeek station bombing that killed at least 20 people on Tuesday today vowed to get back on the Brussels metro when he returns to work at the European Parliament after Easter.

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Brussels attacks – The aftermath

The aftermath of Tuesday’s twin bombings at Brussels airport and on its metro. EurActiv gives up to the minute updates on the latest developments and implications at European level.

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Background

During his campaign for re-election in 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union and organise a referendum to decide whether or not Britain should remain in the 28-member bloc.

The British PM said he will campaign for Britain to remain in the EU after a two-day summit in Brussels where he obtained concessions from the 27 other EU leaders to give Britain “special status” in the EU.

But EU leaders had their red lines, and ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.

The decision on whether to stay or go could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.

The campaign will be bitterly contested in a country with a long tradition of euroscepticism and a hostile right-wing press, with opinion polls showing Britons are almost evenly divided.

Timeline

  • 23 June: Referendum.
  • July-December 2017: United Kingdom holds rotating EU Council Presidency.

Further Reading

Bank of England issues new Brexit warning

Uncertainty surrounding Britain's looming referendum on European Union membership could send the pound slumping further and boost financing costs, the Bank of England warned Tuesday (29 March).

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