After the attacks in Brussels yesterday, several Eurosceptic voices used the events as a way of arguing that Brexit was more necessary than ever. Alison Pearson, the columnist, wrote about how Brussels was the jihadist capital of Europe, and how its position as the de facto capital of Europe somehow discredited the whole European project. Tony Parsons was off on a “safety = protecting the borders” thing and Farage….well, let’s not bother repeating what Nigel Farage had to say on anything.
I’ll start with the practical problems presented by the Brexiteer comments in regards to the Brussels attacks. First off, saying something like “Schengen free movement is a threat to our security” is an incredibly stupid argument for Brexit. We aren’t in Schengen are not going to be any time very soon, to put it mildly. So leaving the EU wouldn’t change anything in regards to Schengen and the UK whatsoever. This isn’t an ideological point but a practical one.
Also, there is a tendency to conflate the “Muslim integration” problem with being in the EU. If you want to discuss the theory that more Muslims in your countries equals a higher probability of terrorist activity, fine, we can have that argument. But leave the European Union out of it. If Brexit occurs, north London mosques will still be there, places like Luton will still have the issues it has, and however much multiculturalism does or does not make us safe, the fact is that we’ll still have those multicultural communities in the UK. Even the most ardent Eurosceptic has never claimed that Polish migration to Britain resulted in more Islamist activity here.
I find the fact that Brussels was attacked makes me feel more strongly about being in the EU, not less. Because I feel like a divided Europe will only help more things like what happened in Brussels yesterday happen in future, and that Britain leaving the EU – whatever it means for the UK as a nation – will almost certainly weaken the European project and thus make everyone in western Europe less safe.
But I suppose I would say that, wouldn’t I? That’s what I really want to talk about here – Pearson, Parsons, Nige, they were all slated by portions of the media for using the Brussels attacks in what was seen by some as an opportunistic way. But I disagree – I don’t think any of the people I mentioned there were using the Brussels attacks as a shining example of why Britain needs to be out of the EU disingenuously. This is what a lot of people flinging mud at people like Farage fail to understand: these guys really believe in what they are saying. They truly, deeply believe that unless Britain gets out of the EU, there will be jihadists running rampant on the streets of our cities in no time. Forget about the fact that for years, it was the UK that had the largest problem with homegrown jihadism in Europe – trust me, the Brexiteers are genuine in their fear of the EU. It’s why the term Europhobia would be more appropriate in most instances.
So call these folks what you will, but don’t question their motives. Talk of the EU being a clear problem to our security wasn’t a ploy by the Outers – it is how they truly saw the attacks in Brussels. Logic is hard to access in instances like these; people being murdered by maniacal theocrats tends to elicit an emotional response, for better or for worse.