Eco-protest groups such as Just Stop Oil have the potential to pose a terrorism threat to the UK, MPs have been told.
Giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, security expert Peter Neumann said failure by the disruptive groups to achieve political success could lead to an escalation in its activities including violence, sabotage and even terror.
Mr. Neumann, founder of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, said. “We’ve certainly seen very intense networks of groups, like Just Stop Oil, where in Germany it is called Last Generation, which are using similar tactics—disruptive tactics—which are not terrorism.
“But we’re also seeing within these movements an intense debate about what the next step should be, because it’s already becoming obvious that these tactics are not leading to political success.
“And so, like in any social movement, that is employing radical but not violent tactics, not reaching, not achieving its objective, at some point, there will be a discussion and the dangers, of course, that from within these movements, there may be splinters that then pursue violence, sabotage, or even terrorism.”
Mr. Neumann said he was not against the idea of “fighting against climate change” but “very much in favour of it”, but added that needed to be separated from the dangers extreme eco-groups could post.
“I do think it is a situation where one should be very careful about splits within these movements, and perhaps some people taking it forward in a more extreme way.”
The security professor was responding to questions on the dangers of eco and left-wing extremism in the UK.
In June, the House of Lords voted through a new law giving police officers more powers to intervene in slow-walk protests, tunnelling, or road blockades.
The tactics have been used by protest groups such as Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain.
It followed the passage of the Public Order Act, which granted police more powers to clamp down on protests judged to be disruptive.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the new law would equip police forces with the “full armoury of legal tools” to deal with “militant” protesters.
Just Stop Oil, spawned by the Extinction Rebellion protests in 2018, has promised to continue its campaign of “civil resistance” until the British government halts new fossil fuel projects in the UK.
The organisation recently called on police officers to “realise that their children are in the same danger as the young people they are being told to arrest.”
Figures released in July show that the Metropolitan Police arrested 271 people and issued 420 section-12 orders to clear the roads in Just Stop Oil policing operations, which cost £7.7 million over 13 weeks.
Last month, Greenpeace was blasted after its protesters scaled the countryside home of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before protesting on the roof for a number of hours.
Tuesday’s Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, part of an inquiry into counter-terrorism in the UK, also examined the threat of far-right terrorism.
Mr. Neumann said the movement was using the internet to form global partnerships, with a number of online forums successfully used to enable or inspire terrorist operations including the 2019 New Zealand mosque shootings.
He said that although many of the messaging forums—which attract “isolated young men”—have been taken down, it is still unclear where the people that used them, including those from Britain, have “reassembled.”
He said there was also the “more formal type of organisation” online by far-right groups which operate across country lines.
Iron March, a far-right, neo-fascist web forum, had 12 Neo-Nazi organisations from around the world, including the UK, formally affiliated with it, Mr. Neumann said.
Those using the site talked about tactics and targets, and a number of terror-related arrests stemming from activities on the website have occurred over the past number of years in both the U. States and UK, he told the committee.
He said that although counter-terrorism had been good at tackling online jihadist sites, the UK had “some catching up to do” in terms