UKIP North East MEP Jonathan Arnott has issued the following statement in the wake of the tragic attacks in Brussels.
“The tragic events of yesterday bring into sharp focus the battle between our way of life and those who would seek to destroy the freedoms that our nations have fought so hard to win. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Belgium, just as we stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of France after the attacks in Paris.
Yesterday, I was due to travel to Brussels and had to cancel my plans after the attacks. Seeing pictures on my television of areas in Brussels and the airport where I’ve spent a lot of time brought it into sharp focus for me. Yet as the news continued to unfold, like many people I was unaware until this morning that a Hartlepool-born man was amongst those missing. My thoughts are with his family at this incredibly difficult time. This has provided a poignant reminder of how interconnected we are, and how we must all stand together in the face of evil.
As time continues to pass, my thoughts also begin to turn towards the future. It is right that the UK authorities should offer assistance to the Belgian authorities in the days and weeks that lie ahead. It is right that increased security should be in place at key transport hubs in the near future, partly because of the danger of copycat attacks but also because of the need to inspire public confidence. However, we must not allow our way of life to be fundamentally undermined: to do so would be to hand a victory to terrorists.
It is a matter for the Belgian people to consider how their security services should evolve to meet this challenge. Whilst they have been criticised by some, it is not for me to point the finger of blame. The UK should be prepared to assist in any way that we can.
As we look to the future, the nature of a borderless continent in the Schengen Area must now be called into question. One of the best protections from large-scale smuggling of people, weapons and explosives is the ability to make appropriate checks at national borders; in the absence of this, the protection of security becomes far more difficult.
We must be aware of the ways that Islamic State extremists are cynically exploiting the plight of refugees, abusing the principles of asylum and using the cover of large-scale migrations to smuggle terrorists into the continent of Europe. Their sickening callous disregard for those fleeing war and persecution is beneath contempt.
We must remain vigilant, secure our borders, continue to develop our intelligence services and, above all, recognise that the first duty of any government is to protect its citizens. Irrespective of politics, I call upon all of our representatives in Westminster to provide the resources necessary to ensure that terror is always defeated.”