The tweet, later deleted, implied that a similar event could happen in Britain if it voted to remain in the European Union. It included a graphic saying that “Islamic extremism is a real threat to our way of life,” and urging readers to “act now before we see an Orlando-style atrocity here before too long.”
The campaign was heavily criticized by commentators, politicians and other Twitter users:
Project Fear pic.twitter.com/d4nXBUR8G9— Michael Deacon (@MichaelPDeacon) June 13, 2016
Theresa May on leave.eu Orland poster: "It is utterly irresponsible....attempts to link it into membership of EU..shd rightly be condemned"— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) June 13, 2016
Hang your heads in shame Leave.eu!! More pathetic scare tactics by Little Englander Brexiteers.l https://t.co/QiZtAVw8sq— Dan Coxon (@strictlydc) June 13, 2016
In a statement, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn said: “This is a shameful and cowardly poster. 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.”
The campaign also said that “the free movement of Kalashnikovs in Europe helps terrorists,” a claim roundly mocked by the analyst Shashank Joshi:
That famous fourth pillar of the EU. Always knew it was a mistake. https://t.co/4EFQkSUk97— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) June 13, 2016
The argument that Britain would be safer outside of Europe thanks to a potentially tighter immigration policy is a staple of the U.K.’s Euroskeptics. But much of the security establishment has argued the opposite.
The former heads of security agencies Mi5 and Mi6, Baron Evans of Weardale and Sir John Sawers, have both warned that a vote to leave would make intelligence sharing more difficult.
“Intelligence work today relies on the lawful and accountable use of large data-sets to reveal the associations and activities of terrorists and cyber-attackers. The terms on which we exchange data with other European countries are set by agreement within the EU,” the pair wrote in The Sunday Times.