The UK will be more exposed to Paris-style terror attacks if it stays in the EU, Iain Duncan Smith, one of the cabinet ministers campaigning for Brexit, has suggested.
The former leader of the Tory party, who is now work and pensions secretary, warned the EU was in meltdown about a “massive wave of migration”, with people from Pakistan and Iran coming into EU countries alongside Syrian refugees.
In an interview with the BBC, he claimed other EU countries could give passports to migrants who may end up in the UK and then appeared to link this to a risk of Paris-style terrorism.
“There is another concern and risk: the migration issue, in meltdown around the EU, with the EU almost incapable, it seems, of handling this massive wave of migration coming in from, not just by the way Syria. We hear today about Pakistanis and others coming into Hungary and having a problem. You see various people from different parts of Iran are coming in. It’s not just from one country,” he said.
“What we see with the EU is its incapacity to get its act together. That leads to tensions. Who’s to say in the next few years countries that have taken people from various areas aren’t then going to give them a kind of leave to remain and even passports, as we’ve seen in some cases, and then in due course may well turn up again in the UK.
“These are big issues further down the road for us. This open border does not allow us to check and control people who may come and spend time. We see what happened in Paris where they spent ages planning and plotting. Who is to say it is not beyond the wit of man that those might be already thinking about that.”
Pressed on whether he was saying being in the EU left the UK open to Paris-style terror attacks, he said: “I think the present status of the open border we have right now, many of us feel does actually leave the door open and we need to see that resolved.”
Duncan Smith’s argument echoes the warnings of Nigel Farage, another key Brexit campaigner, who has claimed that the EU was “seriously imperilling our security” because of the risk of terrorists posing as migrants.
However, it directly contradicts that of David Cameron, who has said staying in the EU is vital for Britain’s security as it shares information about terror threats with other member states.
Two weeks ago, the prime minister said: “You know that we have that vital information when terrorists and criminals are travelling around Europe ... The people who want to take a different path, they have to start answering some questions about what it would look like if we are not in that organisation and not party to those rules. And I know they fear that, that the time will come pretty soon when they have to start answering some of those questions.”
Downing Street had no immediate response to Duncan Smith, but Lucy Thomas, deputy director of the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign, said: “In recent weeks we have heard from a wide range of experts with frontline experience of the fight against terrorism that Britain’s streets are safer in Europe. Though Iain Duncan Smith may wish to ignore them, the message is clear from the head of Europol, army chiefs and home secretaries past and present, that cooperating with our European allies is crucial to keeping British people safe.
“The European arrest warrant lets us deport terrorist suspects back to their country of origin, Europol helps our police cooperate with their European counterparts, and EU data-sharing measures allow our security services to access information on threats from anywhere in Europe within minutes.”
Duncan Smith is one of a number of senior Eurosceptics making the arguments for Brexit on the airwaves, after their gag on speaking out was lifted on Saturday.
Both Chris Grayling, the leader of the House of Commons, and Priti Patel, the employment minister, stressed they want Cameron to stay on as prime minister even if the country votes to leave.
Grayling said he would even trust Cameron to lead Brexit negotiations, despite the likelihood he would be ousted by backbenchers if the referendum was lost.
He told the BBC’s Sunday Politics: “I think the last thing we need at the end of all this, whether we vote to leave or whether we vote to stay, is a political bloodbath. You know, we’ve got a good team, that team needs to carry on and do what the country asks us to do.”
This article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Sunday 21st February 2016 14.15 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010