The U.K. has reduced its terrorism threat level from ‘severe’ to ‘substantial’. Substantial is the third highest tier and indicates that an attack is deemed to be likely as opposed to highly likely or even highly likely in the near future as is the definition for the highest level – ‘critical’. Two lower tiers – ‘moderate’ and ‘low’ mean that an attack is possible but unlikely, and highly unlikely respectively.
The U.K. had been on a severe terrorism threat level since November following attacks in Europe.
This threat level is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre and refers to the threat from international terrorism. MI5 is responsible for setting the threat level for domestic terrorism which includes Northern Ireland terrorism.
The threat level for international terrorism has never been lower than ‘substantial’ since the levels were introduced in 2006. It reached critical level four times – in 2006, 2007 and twice in 2017.
The pandemic has slowed terrorist activity somewhat, both on U.K. soil as well as in Europe. However, the number of potential suspects on MI5’s radar remains largely unchanged at around 3,000 individuals and it is highly conceivable that bad actors are using the national lockdown (which currently has no end date) to focus on regrouping and recruiting. There is also a concern that right-wing extremism and other forms of domestic extremism are increasing.