Britain will have stronger powers to impose sanctions on dangerous regimes and terrorist groups when it leaves the European Union, ministers have revealed.
A new Sanctions Bill is to be unveiled today repatriating powers held by Brussels to freeze assets and block access to bank accounts of governments of rogue states and criminal organisations and individuals.
It means the UK will no longer be held back by Brussels in the war on terror
The move is part of a double assault on terrorism by the government with Home Secretary Amber Rudd telling internet giants at a major conference in California that they have to stop allowing the web being a hiding place for extremists.
The Government will introduce a Sanctions Bill to ensure it has the legal powers to bring forward restrictions on foreign countries after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
It will include additional powers to ensure ministers can freeze terrorists’ assets more easily.
To do so at the moment the Government must “reasonably believe” a person is, or has been, involved in terrorism and that freezing their assets is necessary to protect the public.
Under the new plans, ministers would only need to have “reasonable grounds” to suspect a person or group is, or has been, involved in terrorism and that sanctions are an “appropriate action”.
Economic Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said: “These new powers will help us keep the British public safer from terrorist attacks by keeping money out of the hands of those wishing to cause us harm.
“Our counter terrorist financing proposals will make it easier for law enforcement and Government to impose sanctions on those that present a threat to our national or international security.”
At the moment, the UK implements more than 30 sanctions regimes, including against countries like Russia, North Korea and Iran as well as terror groups such as Islamic State and al Qaida.
The Bill will repatriate powers on non-UN sanctions from Brussels and build on them, introduce an annual review of sanctions regimes to ensure they remain appropriate, give individuals and organisations the opportunity to challenge measures imposed on them, and enable exemptions when required, for example to deliver humanitarian aid to regions hit by sanctions.
The Sanctions Bill, one of eight Brexit-related pieces of legislation to be brought forward over the next two years, will be designed to give the UK greater flexibility on when and how to introduce new measures.
Meanwhile, speaking at the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism Forum’s inaugural meeting in San Francisco, Ms Rudd emphasised that more needs to be done and the threat cannot be downplayed.
Mrs Rudd said: “Terrorists and extremists have sought to misuse your platforms to spread their hateful messages.
“This Forum is a crucial way to start turning the tide.
“The responsibility for tackling this threat at every level lies with both governments and with industry.
“We have a shared interest: we want to protect our citizens and keep the free and open internet we all love.
“Today’s meeting of the Forum is the next step towards achieving these goals.”
Earlier this year, a committee of MPs accused social media firms of a “shameful” failure to tackle online terrorist propaganda and hate speech.
In June Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the country’s most senior counter-terror officer, urged internet-based companies to “show more responsibility”.
He warned: “It is too easy for the angry, violent or vulnerable to access extremist views, learn about attack methodologies, conspire on encrypted applications and then acquire equipment to kill, all online.”
Britain and France are looking at plans that could see technology firms face fines if their efforts to tackle terrorist material are not up to scratch.
The proposals – unveiled by Theresa May and French president Emmanuel Macron in June – include exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for companies if they fail to remove unacceptable content.