A man waves both a Union Jack and a European Union flag on College Green outside the Houses of Parliament at an anti-Brexit protest in London on June 28. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — Earlier this year, the Islamic State released a chilling video in which it directly threatened attacks on Britain.

But the group is also willing to praise its enemy countries: In its latest edition of the al-Naba magazine, the Islamic State welcomes Britain leaving the European Union because it supposedly "threatens the unity of Crusader Europe."

Calling the referendum results as having been "surprising to most people," al-Naba described in detail how stock markets and economies had suffered following last week's vote.

According to the Islamic State interpretation of events, Brexit could lead to the disintegration of the United Kingdom — and of Europe. "It has also impacts on the European level as it encouraged other national parties in European countries to aim for similar referendums which would threaten the unity of the entity as a whole," wrote the authors.

"Although the scenes within the U.K. imply that things are already settled in favor of Britain's exit, the Crusade world is trying really hard to compensate its consequences," the Islamic State authors wrote, possibly referring to current E.U. efforts to uphold a strong relationship with the U.K. even after its departure from the Union.

"It’s clear they want a weakened Europe and they see this as helping," wrote Shiraz Maher, the deputy director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), on Twitter.

But perhaps as interesting as what the Islamic State commentary argues is what it doesn't mention. The terror group recently claimed to have "covert units" inside the E.U., specifically in France. But it is the E.U.'s concept of open borders and the free movement of people that has enabled some fighters to leave Syria and Iraq and to return to their home countries.

The Islamic State's operational abilities would also be affected should the Schengen zone — which consists of countries that have agreed to abolish border controls — fall apart.


The issue had come up repeatedly in the campaign ahead of the British E.U. referendum: The threat of terrorism and the ability of fighters to move freely between countries that are part of the Schengen zone worried many voters inclined to vote for leaving the European Union, although Britain itself was never part of the zone and did not plan on becoming a member anytime soon.

Pro-Brexit campaigners, however, referred to the devastating terror attacks which hit Paris on Nov. 13. Only hours later, French President François Hollande announced he would close the nation's borders.

But one surviving attacker, Salah Abdeslam, was nevertheless able to escape the country the next morning, even though he was stopped by a police patrol.

The incident revealed how the Islamic State has taken advantage of the European Union's fragile security concept. E.U. member states still only occasionally share crucial information on foreign fighters, which might have enabled some to secretly move back to the continent after fighting in Syria and Iraq. Moreover, simply reintroducing border controls within hours on a continent where such measures have become the exception rather than the norm has been deemed difficult to impossible.

Although such considerations may not have been at the very core of the E.U. referendum campaign, the Islamic State's recent attacks on continental European soil may have exacerbated fears among some British.

On an operational level, the Islamic State might be directly affected by a troubled European Union and an end of the Schengen zone. But the group appears to consider the damage to the E.U. to be far more devastating.

"It is worth asking the question: Who would be happy if we left?," British Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted as asking last month.

"Putin might be happy, I suspect [ISIS leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi might be happy," he said.

Hani Zaitoun contributed to this story.

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