Europe

Lethal Belgium attacks raise heat of EU referendum debate

  • The London Eye on the banks of the River Thames is lit in the colours of the Belgian flag Wednesday March 23, 2016, as a tribute following Tuesday's terrorist attacks in Brussels. Other well know London landmarks were also lit in the same colours. (Anthony Devlin/PA via AP)  UNITED KINGDOM OUT

    The London Eye on the banks of the River Thames is lit in the colours of the Belgian flag Wednesday March 23, 2016, as a tribute following Tuesday's terrorist attacks in Brussels. Other well know London landmarks were also lit in the same colours. (Anthony Devlin/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT  (The Associated Press)

  • Armed British police stand guard outside the Belgian Embassy in London, Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Belgian authorities searched Wednesday for a man pictured at the Brussels airport with two apparent suicide bombers, amid growing suggestions that the bombings of the Brussels airport and subway were the work of the same Islamic State cell that attacked Paris last year. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

    Armed British police stand guard outside the Belgian Embassy in London, Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Belgian authorities searched Wednesday for a man pictured at the Brussels airport with two apparent suicide bombers, amid growing suggestions that the bombings of the Brussels airport and subway were the work of the same Islamic State cell that attacked Paris last year. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)  (The Associated Press)

The lethal extremist attack in Belgium has sparked a pitched debate in Britain over whether the UK would be safer if it votes to leave the European Union.

Both sides in the upcoming June 23 referendum debate claimed the attacks in Brussels strengthened their position.

Intelligence figures and senior politicians seemed divided over the security issue, with former Secret Intelligence Service chief Richard Dearlove arguing that leaving the EU would make Britain more secure. He said it would free Britain from Europe's "freedom of movement" rules and give Britain more control.

But Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, Thursday insisted that a departure from the EU would make Britain more vulnerable because it would no longer have access to intelligence-sharing systems.

The issue has also divided Prime Minister David Cameron's Cabinet.