Britain May Introduce Trump-Style Travel Restrictions After Attack

It is too early to know more details about what appears to have been an attempted attack on the Houses of Parliament in London, but the date – the first anniversary of the attacks in Brussels – may be significant, writes Valdai Club expert Mary Dejevsky.

What appears to have been an attempted attack on the Houses of Parliament in Westminster has left four people dead, including a police officer, and more than 20 people, including tourists, injured. It is the first major terrorist incident in the UK capital since the multiple attacks on the transport network in July, 2005. At least one attacker managed to get into the precincts of Parliament, but not into the buildings.

It is too early to know more details, but the date - the first anniversary of the attacks in Brussels - may be significant. There could also be parallels with the attacks in Nice and Berlin, where a single attacker used a vehicle essentially as a weapon. The majority of the dead and injured were struck by a car that appears to have deliberately driven into them on Westminster Bridge on the approach to Parliament.

Police and security services have been on alert recently. An anti-terrorist training exercise was held on the Thames just last weekend, with the fictional scenario of a tourist cruise boat being hijacked. The UK also lost no time in announcing that it was introducing a similar ban on electronic devices in aircraft cabins to the one announced in the United States.

Brussels Bombings Not to Change EU Refugee Policy Nicu Popescu
The Brussels attacks in will not change the policy of the European Union toward refugees and will not entail the closure of the borders of the Schengen area. A series of bomb blasts on March 22, 2016 at the airport and metro station in Brussels shocked the whole world. According to preliminary reports, at least 20 people were killed, the explosions were qualified as terrorist attacks.

There is hardly an area of London where security is tighter than in Westminster, where there is a very visible police presence. This includes armed police, which is unusual for the UK, where police do not usually carry firearms.

The attack will be greeted as both a vindication of the generally high security around Westminster, but also, in part, a failure. It is a vindication in that the actual buildings of Parliament were not penetrated, although this was at the cost of a police officer’s life. But it will be accounted a failure because the security services have said that at least a dozen terrorist plots have been thwarted since 2013. That run of success ended yesterday.

If it turns out that the attacker was acting in the name of fundamentalist Islam - which has not been confirmed - there could be public and political pressure for the UK to introduce the same sort of restrictions and screening on people coming from mainly Muslim countries as Donald Trump wants to introduce in the US. The British authorities will probably reluctant to go to those lengths, however, partly so as not to give the impression of panic; partly not to alienate British Muslims, but also because the 2005 attackers were home-grown and had not come from abroad. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.