Seeking Brexit progress, UK’s May steps up security warnings

Published June 29, 2018, 9:45 AM

by AJ Siytangco

By Agence France-Presse

Prime Minister Theresa May urged EU leaders on Thursday not to risk the safety of their citizens by cutting security ties with Britain after Brexit, as she sought to step up the wider withdrawal negotiations.

Over a summit dinner in Brussels, May warned Britain would be unable to share information on criminals and terror networks in Europe if the EU stuck to its rules limiting cooperation with third countries.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to take part in an European Union leaders' summit focused on migration, (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to take part in an European Union leaders’ summit focused on migration, (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS / MANILA BULLETIN)

While she repeated her “unconditional” commitment to security on the continent after Brexit, she said: “Our ability to do so is being put at risk.”

“I would urge you to consider what is in the best interests of the safety of your citizens and mine,” she told the leaders, according to her office.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that after Brexit, Britain will lose access to EU-only police databases and mechanisms for sharing information and enacting cross-border arrests.

“We would no longer be able to share real-time alerts for wanted persons, including serious criminals,” May said.

“And our collective ability to map terrorist networks across Europe and bring those responsible to justice would be reduced.

“That is not what I want and I do not believe it is what you want either.”

The other 27 EU leaders will on Friday discuss Brexit without her, and May urged them to direct the European Commission to soften its negotiating guidelines on security.

“The existing legal frameworks for third countries will not allow us to realize the ambitious future security partnership that I believe is in all our interests,” she said.

No longer equals

The prime minister admitted as she arrived in Brussels that the wider Brexit talks need to move at a “faster pace” if a deal is to be reached by October, ahead of Brexit in March 2019.

European leaders have warned Britain is running out of time and while hopeful of reaching agreement, are increasing their preparations for the possibility that the talks collapse.

“We have to do it,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, adding: “I would like our British friends to make clear their positions.”

Despite progress on Britain’s budget contributions and the rights of EU citizens, the talks are stalled on how to avoid border checks between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar said he had hoped to make “more progress — or any progress” by now, adding: “We all need to intensify our efforts now.”

He said Britain should have drawn up a proper Brexit plan two years ago, when it voted to leave the bloc, and now had to accept the compromises it should make.

“Any relationship that exists in the future between the EU and the UK isn’t going to be one of absolute equals.”

May’s government has also yet to explain what it wants from the future economic relationship with the bloc, amid deep divisions among ministers and in the British parliament.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “I am not losing patience but time is getting shorter and shorter to come to an agreement.”

In a lighter moment, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel presented May with a World Cup football shirt, ahead of his country’s clash with England Thursday.

She returned the favor by later giving him an England shirt, and customized t-shirts for him and his family commemorating the game.

May is expected to meet with other European leaders individually over the coming days before she gathers her ministers to agree a final position on Brexit in early July.