Donald Tusk has said he believes Theres May is too “decent” and “wise” to really threaten to withdraw security cooperation from the EU.
The president of the European Council told a press conference in Malta that he did not believe the United Kingdom would use fighting terrorism as a “bargaining chip” in the Brexit negotiations.
His comments came as May was dealt a blow as the EU said it would not conduct the exit talks at the same time as negotiating the UK’s future relationship with the bloc.
May faced a backlash this week after she appeared to link continued British cooperation on security with the EU to striking a free trade deal with the bloc.
In her letter formally triggering the Brexit process, May said she wanted the UK to have a “deep and special partnership” with the EU. But she added: “a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.”
This was interpreted as a threat - something the British government has since denied.
Tusk said today: “After the terrorist attack in London it must be clear that terrorism is our common problem and security is our common problem.
“I know Theresa May well enough I know her approach to this issue, this is why I rule out this kind of interoperation and speculation that security cooperation is used as a bargaining chip.
“It must be a misunderstanding. Our partner are wise and decent partners. And this is why I am absolutely sure that no one is using security cooperation as a bargaining chip.”
May has said she wants to conduct the UK’s two year exit negotiations at the same time as striking a new trade deal with the EU.
However Tusk said today this was not on the cards. “Once, and only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal, can we discuss the framework for our future relationship. Starting parallel talks will not happen,” he said.
Tusk added that the EU would “not pursue a punitive approach” to the talks with the UK as “Brexit itself is already punitive enough”.
He was speaking as a draft of the EU’s Brexit negotiating principles was sent to European leaders.