An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)

Overview:  The UK remained a key U.S. partner in the global fight against terrorism, and counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries was excellent.  As a Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS partner, the UK continued to contribute to Iraq and northeast Syria stabilization efforts. The United Kingdom also serves as the coalition’s Communications Working Group co-leader, in partnership with the UAE and the United States on countering ISIS propaganda and messaging.

The UK’s terrorism threat level was at the third-highest rating (“substantial”) for most of 2021. On February 4, the UK lowered the threat level from “severe” to “substantial,” indicating a terrorist attack remains “likely” rather than “highly likely,” citing a “significant reduction in the momentum of attacks in Europe.”  On November 15, following the October 15 stabbing of Sir David Amess, Member of Parliament (MP, Southend West), and the November 14 Liverpool bombing, the UK increased the threat level to “severe” owing to an overall change in the threat picture.  UK officials categorize Islamist terrorism as the greatest threat to national security, though they recognize the growing threat of racially and ethnically motivated terrorism, also referred to as “extreme right-wing” terrorism.

On November 18, the Home Office reported that, during the fiscal year ending in March, the UK’s Prevent counterterrorism program received more referrals related to extreme right-wing” radicalization (1,229) than “Islamist” radicalization (1,064) for the first time.  From 2017 through December, police and security services disrupted 32 plots: 18 related to Islamist extremism, 12 to extreme right-wing extremism, and two to “left, anarchist, or single-issue terrorism.”

The terrorist threat level for Northern Ireland — set separately from England, Scotland, and Wales — remains severe because of threats from Dissident Republican groups, which remain opposed to British governance and use paramilitary-style attacks and intimidation to exert control over communities.  In December, the Independent Reporting Commission published its fourth annual report assessing Loyalist and Republican paramilitarism, which remain a clear and present danger in Northern Ireland.

2021 Terrorist Attacks:  The UK suffered two terrorist attacks in 2021:

  • On October 15, a British national of Somali heritage fatally stabbed Conservative Sir David Amess, MP, while Amess met with constituents in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
  • On November 14, an Iraqi-born asylum seeker killed himself when a homemade explosive charge he manufactured “with murderous intent” detonated inside a taxi outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital.  The taxi driver was the only other individual injured in the blast.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  In April, Parliament passed the Counterterrorism and Sentencing Bill, which increased maximum sentences from 10 to 14 years for three terrorism offenses: membership in a proscribed organization, supporting a proscribed organization, and attending a place used for terrorist training.  The Bill created a new, extended post-release probationary regime for terrorism offenders and made it easier to impose stringent restrictions on freedom of association and movement on terrorist activity suspects not yet charged with a crime.

UK law enforcement made 188 arrests for suspected terrorism-related activity, of which 47 resulted in charges for terrorism-related offenses from 2020 through September, according to Home Office statistics.  Of the 58 people convicted of terrorism-related offenses, 45 received sentences of less than 10 years and one received a life sentence.  As of September, 218 people were in custody for terrorism-related offenses in the UK, with 154 of these individuals associated with “Islamist extremism” and 45 with “extreme right-wing” terrorism.

In June, the UK launched a consultation on strengthening UK border security by 2025, using new digital systems.  The UK uses advanced biometric screening at some points of entry but lost real-time access to automated DNA and fingerprint comparisons after the Brexit transition period ended at year’s end of 2020.  Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, the UK was required to modify its systems to effect “deletion after departure,” absent specific justification (such as criminality or terrorism).  Selective deletion takes time to automate, and the UK has been providing periodic reports to the EU as required.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  The UK is a member of the FATF and has observer or cooperating status in the following FATF-style bodies: the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, the Middle East and North Africa FATF, and the Caribbean FATF.  The UK FIU is a member of the Egmont Group.  The UK is a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Finance Group.

The 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act provided the legal framework to implement sanctions after the UK left the EU.  The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019 took effect in the beginning of 2020.  The UK’s domestic counterterrorism sanctions regime — the Counterterrorism (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (known as CT3) — replaced the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2010 when the Brexit transition period terminated at the end of 2020.

Countering Violent Extremism:  The Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE), a nonstatutory expert committee of the Home Office, published a February report recommending that the government commit to developing a “new legal and operational framework to capture the specific activity of hateful extremism.”  The CCE also published a July report, which explored the range and nature of attitudes, beliefs, or false narratives among the general population, in relation to COVID-19 and “hateful extremism.”  The CCE’s Academic-Practitioner Counter Extremism Network convened countering-violent-extremism experts from the CCE, government, and academia to align policy, practice, and research. The UK is a contributor to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund.  Birmingham, Derry/Londonderry, Leicester, London, Luton, and Manchester are members of the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation:  The UK continued to strongly support counterterrorism efforts in the Global Counterterrorism Forum and other regional and multilateral organizations, to include the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, where it co-leads the Communications Working Group and belongs to the Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Stabilization Working Groups.  The UK is a key member of the Five-Country Ministerial, which promotes multilateral ministerial dialogue on border security and counterterrorism.  The UK leads Five Eyes efforts to prevent new European data laws from interfering with lawful government access to suspected terrorist content and voluntary industry efforts to report suspected criminal content on their platforms.  The UK cooperates with other OSCE participating States in countering terrorism.

On This Page

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future