Barnier: Britain abandoned EU in fight against IS

Downing Street has hit back at a top EU official’s suggestion the UK has abandoned Europe in the fight against Islamic State.

Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, claimed Britons “chose to be on their own” in tackling terrorism when voting to leave the EU last year.

His controversial remarks come at a critical time in Brexit negotiations and caused anger among MPs, prompting Number 10 to slap down the French official and highlight the UK’s action against IS (also known as Daesh).

Addressing a security conference in the German capital Berlin on Wednesday, Mr Barnier said: “More than 500 days ago, the UK took the sovereign decision to leave the EU and bring to an end 44 years of common history.

“To many of us this came as a great shock.

“It was a decision taken against the backdrop of a strategic repositioning by our American ally, which has gathered pace since the election of Donald Trump.

“It was a decision that came after a series of attacks on European soil, committed by young people who grew up in Europe, in our countries.

“It was a decision that came six months after the French minister of defence issued a call for solidarity to all his European counterparts to join forces to fight the terrorism of Daesh.

“Never had the need to be together, to protect ourselves together, to act together been so strong, so manifest.

“Yet rather than stay shoulder to shoulder with the Union, the British chose to be on their own again.”

Islamic State propaganda

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Mr Barnier’s words were condemned by Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, a member of the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee.

He told Sky News: “These are astonishing comments from Michel Barnier and his words fly in the face of facts.

“Britain is one of the most committed nations in the fight against Daesh, while the Government has repeatedly stressed the UK’s strong desire to maintain security links with the EU.

“Let’s hope Mr Barnier is suitably embarrassed at the next round of negotiations.”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman stressed the “leading role Britain plays and continues to play in terms of combating Daesh, both in terms of online extremism, which Daesh uses to spread its poisonous message, and also in terms of the fight against Daesh on the ground in Iraq and in Syria.”

He added: “The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear about our ongoing commitment to the security of Europe and of the EU and her determination to continue co-operating with the EU sharing information and standing together against IS and terrorism in all its forms.”

Mr Barnier made his comments as the Prime Minister became the first major foreign leader to visit Iraq since the fall of the IS stronghold of Mosul.

Visiting British troops in the country, Mrs May spoke about the UK’s commitment to containing the threat of IS amid fears remnants of the terror group will target Europe.