Brussels Attack Sparks Furious Security Debate Over Brexit

Guy Bentley | Research Associate, Reason Foundation

The Brussels terrorist attacks Tuesday that left scores of people dead and more than 100 injured have intensified the debate over whether Britain should leave the European Union (EU).

The British people will decide for the first time in 40 years Jun. 23 whether their country will remain in the EU or whether it will leave and forge a new path outside the Brussels-based institution. (RELATED: What is Brexit? Everything You Need To Know About Britain’s EU Referendum)

One the key points of debate is whether Britain will be safer in or out of the EU. The Leave campaign claim by withdrawing from the EU, Britain will be able to take back control of its borders and decide who it lets into the country.

The Remain side, however, believes staying in the EU gives Britain greater opportunities to work more closely with European security forces as well as still being able to use the European arrest warrant, which requires a member state to arrest someone who is wanted in another member state and transit them.

In the aftermath of the Brussels attack, Daily Telegraph columnist and euro skeptic Allison Pearson questioned whether EU offered Britain any safety at all.

“I’m very upset by events in Brussels today and even more depressed for the future,” said Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP). The party’s defense spokesman was quick to claim the EU’s open borders policy is a threat to British security.

“This horrific act of terrorism shows that Schengen free movement and lax border controls are a threat to our security,” said UKIP’s Mike Hookem.

But this reaction on the day of the attack drew a harsh condemnation from the European Commission.

“It’s too early, hours after the attacks, to engage in these sort of issues. Others who did that very quickly may feel free and compelled to do it. The Commission will certainly not follow,” Margaritis Schinas, the Commission’s spokesperson, shot back.

Terrorist Attacks such as the ones in Paris and Brussels could increase the likelihood of Brexit, according to market analysts. Europol warned European leaders in February 5,000 jihadis have entered the EU from Syria and 94 are living in Brussels.

“An event like today certainly does push the case for certain campaign language for the UK to leave the EU a bit further,” Nandini Ramakrishnan, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, told CNBC Tuesday.

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