Brandon Lewis ‘regrets offence caused to Ukrainian people’ after national symbol included in counter-terrorism guidance
Brandon Lewis has been forced to express his “sincere regret” for offence caused to the Ukrainian people after their national coat of arms was included on a counter-terror police’s extremism list.
The immigration minister addressed concerns over the Ukrainian Tryzub being revealed among far-right symbols issued in guidance to teachers and medical staff as part of the Prevent programme.
Following the document uncovered by the Guardian, which also included Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion, the Ukrainian embassy has demanded its national symbol to be removed from the list “with official apologies”.
Responding to an Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott’s urgent question on the Prevent mess-up, Mr Lewis said: “Unfortunately far-right groups do have a history of misappropriating national symbols as part of their identity and this was the reasoning behind the inclusion of several symbols.
“But we recognise the Ukraine’s state coat of arms carries constitutional importance as well as both historical and cultural significance for the people of Ukraine.
“And we sincerely regret any offence caused to the Ukrainian nation or its people.”
Tory MP John Whittingdale also weighed in asking the frontbencher to appreciate the “enormous offence this has caused across Ukraine”.
Mr Lewis said he will be meeting his Ukrainian opposite in due course and will be expressing “huge regret”.
“We do have a very valuable and a very positive relationship with our partners in Ukraine,” he added.
The Home Office minister also came under fire for the police guidance’s inclusion of groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Stop the Badger Cull, Campaign against Nuclear Disarmament and vegan activists.
Ms Abbott demanded for the guidance to be shared with MPs.
And she said: “Will the Secretary of State accept that in a democracy there’s a fundamental right to disagreement and non-violent campaigning, and interfering or denying that right even in terms of an error of judgement is a fundamental breach of the contract between the government and the governed.”
SNP justice spokeswoman Joanna Cherry also attacked the decision to include Extinction Rebellion on the list as “ludicrous” and a threat to civil liberties.
Mr Lewis accepted the addition was an “error of judgement”, adding the police had recalled the advice and it was being reviewed.