The far-right terrorism threat "is more significant" than "public debate gives it credit for," the UK's counterterrorism chief has said. In the lead-up to Brexit, the UK has witnessed an increase in far-right extremism.
Mark Rowley, the outgoing head of counterterrorism policing in the United Kingdom, said Monday that police had "foiled four extreme right-wing terror plots" in the country in the last year.
"Countries around the world face similar challenges from Islamist and right-wing extremism and terrorism," Rowley said. "But I know of no other country better able to confront this threat than the UK."
Since the lead-up to the Brexit vote in June 2016, the UK has witnessed an increase in right-wing attacks. Days before the referendum, a 52-year-old right-wing extremist shot and killed British lawmaker Jo Cox.
In June last year, a 48-year-old man drove a vehicle into Muslim worshipers after finding inspiration in far-right ideologies.
"The right-wing terrorist threat is more significant and more challenging than perhaps the public debate gives it credit for," Rowley said.
Rising right-wing extremism
The London-based think tank Counterpoint has said that as "Islamic terrorism is decreasing, extreme right terrorism is on its way up," citing a parliamentary report on violence and radicalization.
Since the 2015 migration crisis, Europe has witnessed growing right-wing extremism. In Germany, a Bundeswehr soldier was charged in December for planning to carry out attacks targeting high-profile politicians and framing refugees for the crimes.
In 2016, an alleged member of the far-right Reichsbürger movement murdered a police officer during a raid of his home. Police were seeking to confiscate his cache of roughly 30 weapons.
Read more: Germany — How do terrorist groups compare?
Threat to democracy
For some, the threat posed by right-wing extremism goes beyond violent crimes and instead challenges the very foundations of Western European countries.
"Populist extremist parties present one of the most pressing challenges to European democracies," said a report published by the London-based Chatham House think tank last year.
"These parties share two core features: they fiercely oppose immigration and rising ethnic and cultural diversity; and they pursue a populist 'anti-establishment' strategy that attacks mainstream parties and is ambivalent if not hostile towards liberal representative democracy."