Brexit secretary David Davis has said Theresa May’s Article 50 letter was “not a threat” to stop cooperating on security issues with the European Union if Brussels does not agree a deal with the United Kingdom in two years.
The prime minister has been attacked for behaving in an “irresponsible and dangerous” way by suggesting Britain will use fighting terrorism as a bargaining chip in the exit talks.
In her letter formally triggering the Brexit process yesterday, May said she wanted the UK to have a “deep and special partnership” with the EU after Brexit.
But she added:
“If, however, we leave the European Union without an agreement, the default position is that we would have to trade on World Trade Organisation terms. In security terms, a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened,”
Davis this morning denied this was a threat. “This Prime Minister was the longest serving Home Secretary in modern times, she takes security very seriously,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“One part of the deal is the justice and home affairs strand which we currently have arrangements for exchanging information, for arrest warrants, Europol - we’ll need to replace that with something else, that will go when we leave the European Union.”
Davis added it was “not in any sense a threat” to withdraw cooperation on security matters.
Writing for The Huffington Post UK, Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said that May’s threat “beggars belief”.
“This is irresponsible and dangerous and it is a terrible way to start the negotiations,” she wrote.
“Whatever the deal ends up being on trade or immigration, everyone agrees that security cooperation must continue. It must not be a bargaining chip or held hostage in wider talks.”
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron branded the letter - which triggered the so-called Article 50 process for quitting the EU - a “blatant threat” to European negotiators.
“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.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said the two issues had been mentioned side by side because they were “all bound up in our membership of the European Union”.
“It’s not a threat, I think that’s the misunderstanding,” he told BBC Two’s Newsnight. “It’s absolutely not a threat.”
Plans to repatriate more than 40 years of powers back to Westminster will begin immediately with the publication of the details of the Great Repeal Bill.
The white paper - Legislating for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union - will set out how the Government will deal with EU laws that cannot be easily converted.
Secondary legislation, known as statutory instruments, will be used to make technical changes with up to 1,000 pieces expected, nearly as many as MPs and peers usually deal with in an entire parliament.