New U.K. Extremism Policy Raises Concerns Over Free Speech

Britain’s government published a new definition of extremism on Thursday that it intends to use to cut ties or funding to groups deemed to have crossed the line, but which critics fear could curtail campaigners’ rights and curb free speech.

Michael Gove, a senior cabinet minister, said in a statement that the move was intended to “protect democratic values” by being “clear and precise in identifying the dangers posed by extremism.”

Some advocacy groups and legal experts greeted the announcement with concern, warning that it could affect the rights of those deemed by the government to meet the definition. The only way to challenge such a ruling is likely to be through the courts.

The initiative has also stirred a wider debate about how, before a general election that must be held by early next year, British politicians choose to deal with domestic tensions that have risen since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks on Israel and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Even before the details of the new extremism proposals were made public, they had provoked criticism from rights groups and concern from three former Conservative Party home secretaries, whose remit included national security, who warned against using the issue of extremism for political advantage.

Michael Gove, a senior cabinet member, said the new policy was intended to be “clear and precise in identifying the dangers posed by extremism.”Credit…Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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