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Liam Fox scaremongering over terrorist sleepers

by Luke Lythgoe | 01.02.2016

Early last month, Nigel Farage repeatedly warned that migrants involved in the Cologne sex attacks could in three to four years acquire a German passport, enter the UK and target British women. Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox has now upped the ante in an interview with The Telegraph and depicted a “much worse” scenario in which terrorist sleeper agents become “naturalised” in continental European Union countries and then have “an absolute right to come to the UK”.

Unlike Farage, Fox didn’t put a timescale on his comments. But such an elaborate plot would take years to come to fruition. First, a terrorist posing as an asylum-seeker would have to get refugee status. Then he or she would have to wait to apply for citizenship. In Sweden, that would add another four years, in Italy five and in Germany eight. Then the citizenship application would need to be processed which, in France, can take up to two years.

Would an Islamic State (IS) agent who sneaked into the EU’s Schengen Area really play such a long game, when he or she could immediately strike another European target? IS may not even be around in 5-10 years.

If the jihadists want to strike the UK, a more logical course of action would be to use British citizens. High-profile attacks in Europe have largely been committed by homegrown terrorists. All four 7/7 bombers and Lee Rigby’s killers were British, the Charlie Hebdo suspects were French, and the majority of suspects in the Paris attacks were French or Belgian.

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Fox, who hinted to The Telegraph that he would like to lead the Leave campaign and might even run to be leader of the Conservatives, used the threat of terrorist sleepers as a reason for Britain to pull out of the EU. But Brexit would not stop his hypothetical plot succeeding.

The Tory MP claims EU countries hosting migrants “have no idea whether these people are genuine refugees or asylum seekers, or economic migrants, or terrorists operating under the cover of either”. But if Fox’s jihadis have succeeded in their deception, then we still won’t know who they are when they become newly minted German or Swedish citizens. And, if we don’t, on what basis would we stop them coming to the UK? On the other hand, if we did have suspicions, EU rules already allow us to deny entry on grounds of “public policy and public security” (article 7.1).

Fox, who didn’t respond immediately to queries from InFacts, uses his terrorist sleeper scenario to argue that David Cameron is “beyond ridiculous” in claiming EU membership improves national security. It is the Tory bigwig who is far-fetched.

Edited by Hugo Dixon