#BrusselsAttacks: Brexit and closing EU frontier will not stop Islamist terrorism

| March 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

Brussels-lock-downOne of the saddest aspects of the Brussels atrocities was the immediate efforts by anti-Europeans to proclaim that outside the EU Britain would be safe or safer from terror attacks, writes Denis MacShane. UKIP spokesmen were first into the gutter to try and exploit the Islamist killings in Brussels but Marine Le Pen and even Donald Trump were not far behind.

Of course any such incident on the continent has consequences. As the news arrived of the Brussels tragedy the pound lost against the Euro and the political bets placed in favour of Brexit edged up a bit. More important for Brexit is the open civil war and chaos inside the Conservative Party as a poll of 2000 people undertaken after the resignation of the former Tory Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, from David Cameron’s cabinet showed that Brexit was ahead of the Remain vote by 43% to 41%. Duncan Smith began his parliamentary career in 1992 but attacking the then Prime Minister, John Major, over the Maastricht Treaty and he remains as obsessively anti-EU as ever and now has all the time he need to campaign for his dream of Britain withdrawing from Europe.

But it is fanciful in the extreme to claim that outside the EU Britain would be safer. Those making the case appear to have forgotten the 7/7 Islamist suicide bombs of 2005 on London Underground and buses. The UK is not in Schengen and UK security and intelligence services were no better than Belgian police in spotting the killers and preventing the attack in 2005.

The French intelligence and police forces cooperate closely under a centralized state system very different from the federal, bi-lingual, jealous and opposing political systems in Belgium. But the French security services could not stop the Charlie Hebdo massacre in February 2015, still less the much worse attacks in Paris last November. As with the Madrid Atocha Islamist attacks in 2004 or even 9/11 in Manhattan if radicalized Muslims are prepared to blow themselves up in the name of their ideological beliefs it is hard to see a 100% guarantee these attacks can be prevented.

Britain faced IRA terror bombs planted in pubs and shopping centres in the 1970s. Britain and Ireland have always had their mini-Schengen called the Common Travel Area which means that Irish citizens can travel, work and live in the UK without showing a passport.

Although there were populist demands in the 1970s for that free travel to be suspended no-one in the British security or police services thought for second it would make any difference to tackling the IRA threat. That demanded an intelligence, police, at times military and above all political set of responses that finally convinced the IRA their campaign of murder would not achieve any result and ended with the Northern Ireland peace process.

The tsunami of refugees coming from the three states, Western policy has helped destroy this century – Iraq, Libya and partly Syria – has forced some government leaders especially on the main routes to and over the Alps to reimpose some frontier controls. But abolishing Schengen will not stop desperate people seeking sanctuary and a better life. The main advantage of Schengen is to permit freer flows of commerce especially goods on lorries and trains which do not have to stop for length border checks as in pre-Schengen times. Does Poland really want to close or slow down traffic flows on all its frontiers with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania?

With the Channel as its border Schengen is not really possible for the UK. But London was not known as Londonistan in the 1990s for nothing. British policy-makers then refused to acknowledge the reality of Islamist ideological terror threats. Even the Islamist massacre at Luxor in 1997 nor the Islamist Algerian bombs on the Paris Metro in 1995 could not shake the smugness of the Brits that they were insulated from these attack.

Indeed, it is to Britain’s shame that for 10 years after 1995, the main Islamist financier of the Paris Metro bombings, Rachid Ramda, was protected by Home Office officials, judges, and lawyers from being returned to Paris to face charges. (He was eventually returned in 2005 and is now serving a life sentence).

At least with the European Arrest Warrant the UK could get returned to Britain from Rome one of the terrorists who carried out the 7/7 attacks and France has issued a European Arrest Warrant for the man arrested by the Belgian police last week. He like Mohammed Merah, who carried out the Toulouse Islamist murders of off-duty policeman and Jews in March 2012, lived quietly out of sight despite being known to the police and being  radicalized by Islamist groomers.

So it just does not make any security or police sense to rant against the EU. Unless we are going to introduce a police state in which ever Muslim home is raided or under surveillance, and every shopping bag carried onto a mass transit system is searched we cannot ensure 100% safety. That is why Brussels, Paris, London and Madrid came back to normal as fast as they could after the Islamist attacks. The best way of rewarding IS or Al Qaida or any ideological outfit that uses terror for political ends is to change our way of life.

Of course temporarily  Brussels helps accentuate the negative image of Europe promoted by the UK’s off-shore owned anti-EU press as well as Tory-UKIP supporters of Brexit. But the real challenge is to tackle Islamism as an ideology and to identify European Muslims ready to kill fellow Europeans. The best way is to ensure all have jobs and let us be honest reflect on our foreign policy approach in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Mali and other majority Muslim nations and our unqualified support for Muslim tyrannies against which the Islamists raise the flag of resistance and revolt which many young men without jobs or hope can be attracted to.

The EU needs more cooperation and more common policy on Islamism and radical young European Muslims ready to kill.  A return to a Europe of closed border nation states would be the biggest victory the terrorists could be given.

Denis MacShane is a former UK minister of Europe and author of Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe (IB Tauris) He was traveling to Brussels on Eurostar on Tuesday morning (22 March) when the train was stopped at Lille and sent back to London.

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Category: A Frontpage, Belgium, Brexit, Brussels, Denis Macshane, EU, Opinion, Radicalization, Terrorism, UK