EU referendum: Fury as Leave campaign warns of 'Orlando-style atrocity' in UK unless Brexit wins

Attempt to exploit massacre labelled 'shameful and cowardly'

Ashley Cowburn
Monday 13 June 2016 17:22 BST
The image that appeared on Leave.EU's Twitter feed on Monday
The image that appeared on Leave.EU's Twitter feed on Monday

A pro-Brexit campaign has sparked a furious reaction after attempting to link the killing of 49 people at a gay US nightclub and the EU referendum debate.

Featuring an image of what appear to be Isis militants brandishing guns in a desert, a post on the official Twitter account of the Leave.EU campaign carried the warning: “Islamist terrorism is a real threat to our way of life. Act now before we see an Orlando-style atrocity here before too long.”

It was immediately denounced as "shameful" by Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, while Will Straw, the director of Britain Stronger in Europe, labelled it “Trump-ist scaremongering”.

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It comes after 50 people including the gunman were killed and 53 were wounded when 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen opened fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The Leave.EU poster was attached to a tweet which claimed: "The free movement of Kalashnikovs in Europe helps terrorists. Vote for greater security on June 23. Vote Leave."

Within minutes of the post's appearance, pro-Remain Education Secretary Ms Morgan responded: “This is really shameful”.

The Education Secretary added: "Using the tragic deaths of innocent people to make a political point is simply shameful. Leave.EU must apologise for the hurt they have caused and apologise immediately.

“And Vote Leave need to condemn such despicable tactics and make clear that the Orlando attack has nothing whatsoever to do with the EU debate in this country”.

Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn said the image was “shameful and cowardly”. He added: “It takes courage to stand by your principles and your friends when they are attacked, whether in Orlando, Paris or Brussels.

“Doing so makes us stronger and shows our resolve to stand up for our values and our way of life in the face of those who hold both in such murderous contempt.”

Iain Duncan Smith said that Vote Leave – the official Brexit campaign – had “nothing to do with that organisation” when asked about the controversial image posted by Leave.EU.

Mr Duncan Smith, the leading Brexit campaigner and former Work and Pensions Secretary, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One programme: “All I would say to you is that Europol has made the point to the Home Secretary quite recently that unless we control migration there are threats to security, that's a fact of life, but I'm not going to get involved in peculiar tweets that go out from other organisations that I don't sign up to.”

Asked if he condemned the comments, he replied: “I think it is completely pointless to try and make something out of what is a tragedy in America.

“It has nothing to do with this debate at all, and I abhor anybody who tries to make capital out of that.”

The Independent was unable to contact Leave.EU - which has since deleted the post - for a comment.

Last month Leave.EU was condemned for sharing a “xenophobic” and “disgusting” video narrated by the Donald Trump. The controversial video appeared to link immigrants with a reference to a poem about a “vicious snake”.

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