Theresa May’s apparent threat to withdraw UK security co-operation should the EU not agree a Brexit trade deal provoked a fierce backlash on Thursday, as The Sun put it starkly: “Your money or your lives”.
Critics claimed that May was putting both Britons’ and Europeans’ security on the line in her drive to get a “hard Brexit”.
And The Sun’s promotion of the tactic provoked anger on social media last night, with many deriding the paper’s championing of the apparent threat.
Alongside its front page splash, The Sun added in an editorial: “...the Prime Minister would be crazy not to use our peerless anti-terror security services as a bargaining chip.
“Some critics may be disgusted... but Brussels wouldn’t hesitate to do it if the boot was on the other foot,” the paper said.
“We need to play every decent card in our hand, and security is one of our strongest.”
the Prime Minister would be crazy not to use our peerless anti-terror security services as a bargaining chip" The Sun editorial
‘Irresponsible and dangerous’
In a blog 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.”
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock claimed in the Commons that May seemed to be “saying the security of our country will be traded like a bargaining chip in these negotiations”.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron branded May’s Article 50 letter a “blatant threat” to European negotiators.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd fuelled the controversy further by pointing out that the EU would be less safe if the UK was forced to quit the pan-European crime agency Europol without a deal.
“It’s absolutely not a threat”
Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green last night said the two issues of trade and security were related 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.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman earlier told reporters: “It is a simple fact. It is a fact that our EU security arrangements, based on EU rules and EU institutions, would obviously lapse if we left the EU without a deal.
“The Prime Minister was also clear it is not something that either side should be seeking. She’s also clear we will seek with huge goodwill a comprehensive deal.”
The triggering of Article 50 yesterday means the UK has a maximum of two years to negotiate its exit from the EU.