Theresa May slammed as she hints at withdrawing security co-operation after Brexit

Posted On: 
29th March 2017

Theresa May was accused of putting "the safety of British and European citizens on the line" after she hinted Britain could withdraw co-operation with the EU unless she gets a Brexit trade deal.

Theresa May makes her Commons statement on triggering Article 50.
Credit: 
Parliament TV.

The Prime Minister twice raised the possibility in her letter to European Council president Donald Tusk formally triggering the two-year Article 50 process.

She even invoked the memory of the Cold War as she insisted now was not the time for Britain to weaken its security ties with the rest of the EU.

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Full text of Theresa May's letter triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty

Mrs May said: "In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened. 

"In this kind of scenario, both the United Kingdom and the European Union would of course cope with the change, but it is not the outcome that either side should seek. We must therefore work hard to avoid that outcome."

She added: "At a time when the growth of global trade is slowing and there are signs that protectionist instincts are on the rise in many parts of the world, Europe has a responsibility to stand up for free trade in the interest of all our citizens.

"Likewise, Europe’s security is more fragile today than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Weakening our co-operation for the prosperity and protection of our citizens would be a costly mistake."

Her remarks raise the possibility of Britain withdrawing co-operation over the European Arrest Warrant, Europol and the sharing of its DNA database.

Downing Street later insisted that the Prime Minister was not issuing a threat, but had simply been pointing out the consequences of failing to reach a deal with the rest of the EU.

But Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: "It is shameful that Theresa May has threatened to withdraw security co-operation from our closest neighbours and allies.

"With growing terrorist threats from around the world, it is imperative that we work together with European allies for our mutual security.

"She is prepared to put the safety of British and European citizens on the line just so she can deliver her hard Brexit.

"Security is too important to be used as a bargaining chip and this will backfire in any negotiations, which rather than building up alliances will leave Britain even more isolated."

'WRONG AND DANGEROUS'

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "Her willingness to walk away with no deal if she does not get the deal she wants would not only be wrong but dangerous.

"She should not be trying to use this as a bargaining chip in the negotiations. This is not a threat to the rest of Europe, it would be a serious act of self-harm. 

"She should rule out now walking away with no security deal as our national security and public safety depend on it."

The Treasury's former top civil servant also took to Twitter to criticise the Prime Minister.

Elsewhere in her letter to Mr Tusk, Mrs May said a deal on Britain's exit from the European Union "is momentous but it should not be beyond us".

She said: "Together, I know we are capable of reaching an agreement about the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state, while establishing a deep and special partnership that contributes towards the prosperity, security and global power of our continent."