Theresa May says lives will be put at risk if EU pursues 'ideological' approach to security talks

Posted On: 
16th February 2018

Theresa May has warned that people across Europe will be at greater risk of a terror attack after Brexit unless the EU drops its "ideological" opposition to security agreements with non-member states.

Theresa May will deliver a strident message to the EU at the Munich security conference.
PA Images

In a stark message, the Prime Minister will tell a security conference in Munich that Britain and the EU must "retain the co-operation that we have built" on intelligence sharing after Brexit.

Mrs May will insist that the UK is "unconditionally committed" to continuing to work as closely as possible with the bloc to counter the threat posed by terrorism.

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But in language which is sure to infuriate Brussels, she will also suggest that the EU is ideologically opposed to reaching a deal on security because Britain is no longer a member state.

Critics accused the Prime Minister of trying to "blackmail" the EU into giving Britain a good Brexit deal.

Mrs May will say: "Europe’s security is our security. And that is why I have said that the United Kingdom is unconditionally committed to maintaining it.

"The challenge for all of us today is finding the way to work together, through a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU, to retain the co-operation that we have built and go further in meeting the evolving threats we face together.

"This cannot be a time when any of us allow competition between partners, rigid institutional restrictions or deep-seated ideology to inhibit our co-operation and jeopardise the security of our citizens.

"We must do whatever is most practical and pragmatic in ensuring our collective security."

Mrs May will add: "In all these areas, people across Europe are safer because of this co-operation and the unique arrangements we have developed between the UK and EU institutions in recent years.

"So it is in all our interests to find ways to protect the capabilities which underpin this co-operation when the UK becomes a European country outside the EU but in a new partnership with it. To make this happen will require real political will on both sides.

"I recognise there is no existing security agreement between the EU and a third country that captures the full depth and breadth of our existing relationship. But there is precedent for comprehensive, strategic relationships between the EU and third countries in other fields, such as trade. And there is no legal or operational reason why such an agreement could not be reached in the area of internal security.

"However, if the priority in the negotiations becomes avoiding any kind of new co-operation with a country outside the EU, then this political doctrine and ideology will have damaging real world consequences for the security of all our people, in the UK and the EU. As leaders, we cannot let that happen."

And in a plea for unity among European nations, Mrs May will say: "Those who threaten our security would like nothing more than to see us fractured.

"They would like nothing more than to see us put debates about mechanisms and means ahead of doing what is most practical and effective in keeping our people safe.

"So let our message ring out loud and clear today: we will not let that happen.  We will keep our people safe, now and in the years to come."

Mrs May's tough message echoes her letter triggering Article 50, in which she said "our co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened" if no Brexit deal could be struck.

However, she then rowed back in her Florence speech last September, when she said Britain would continue to work with the EU on security after Brexit come what may.


Labour MP Stephen Doughty, of the pro-EU campaign group Open Britain, said: "It’s hard to imagine a deeper level of irony than this Prime Minister telling the EU not to let ideology get in the way of striking a deal. The Brexit negotiations are a total mess precisely because she’s allowed herself to become bogged down in the ideological fever-swamps of the most Eurosceptic wing of her own party.

"Her reckless threat to use security co-operation as a way of trying to blackmail the EU into giving her a deal will only poison the negotiating well yet further. It also totally undermines her statement that the UK is committed to European security ‘unconditionally’.

"No-one voted in the referendum to weaken our security or hurt our ability fight crime and terrorism. Given this, everyone is entitled to keep an open mind about whether Brexit is the right path for the country."