David Cameron’s plan to block British-born jihadists fighting with the Islamic State (IS) from re-entering the UK are in tatters, as he acknowledged that rendering citizens stateless would contravene international law.
Objections from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners and doubts among key security services also got the better of the prime minister, who announced the policy proposal in the House of Commons on Monday.
He says new measures are still needed to control the flow of British citizens joining the ranks of IS jihadists and returning to the UK, where they would pose a ‘severe’ security threat.
“It is abhorrent that people who declare their allegiance elsewhere can return to the United Kingdom and pose a threat to our national security,” he told MPs.
“We are clear in principle that what we need is a targeted, discretionary power to allow us to exclude British nationals from the UK.”
About 500 British citizens are believed to have gone to Syria to join militant groups, though some have estimated that figure could be up to three times higher.
“It absolutely sticks in the craw that someone can go from this country to Syria, declare jihad, make all sorts of plans to start doing us damage and then contemplate returning to Britain having declared their allegiance to another state,” Cameron said.
Removing passports from British-born citizens would break both international law and UK common law, according to a former attorney general, Dominic Grieve, who said even the temporary removal of passports would likely be “a non-starter.” He said prosecuting suspected terrorists in UK courts was the best course.