LONDON — Britain’s pro-Brexit campaign “Leave E.U.” was harshly criticized by commentators on Monday for a tweet published on the group’s official account.
“Act now before we see an Orlando-style atrocity here before too long,” a graphic accompanying the tweet read. It was deleted about one hour after publication — but screenshots continued to circulate online.
A senior MP of Britain’s Labour party, Hilary Benn, condemned the ad, calling it “shameful and cowardly.”
Although the tweets come at an extremely sensitive time, Leave E.U.’s line of argument is hardly new.
Leave E.U. and other pro-Brexit groups have used the influx of refugees, as well as recent terrorist attacks on mainland Europe, to argue that Britain would be safer if it left the European Union.
In its now deleted tweet, the campaign also stated that “the free movement of Kalashnikovs in Europe helps terrorists.” Although the availability of Eastern European weapons in Western Europe has indeed been blamed on the absence of borders in the so-called Schengen area, a British departure from the European Union would most likely not change the risk that weapons smuggling poses to the United Kingdom, however.
The island nation is not currently part of the Schengen area, which allows it to conduct border controls, and it already has some of Europe’s strictest gun laws.
Other pro-Brexit advocates have pointed to legal challenges to emphasize that the European Union has made the nation’s counterterrorism operations more difficult.
In March, Boris Johnson, one of the most high-profile campaigners for a British exit, said that European Union judges were putting Britain at additional risk of terrorist attacks.
“I think it is important to put a countervailing point which is that there are some ways now that the European Court of Justice is militating against our ability to control our borders in the way we want to and indeed to maintain proper surveillance,” Johnson said.
The European Court of Justice had previously ruled that the retention of certain mobile phone data by member states may be illegal. Britain’s security agencies are among Europe’s strongest advocates for surveillance, and the country has one of the world’s highest rates of CCTV coverage.