Bri­tain down­plays row over se­cu­rity ties

Warn­ing of fail­ure to clinch deal on trade re­la­tion will weaken fight against ter­ror­ism not a threat – Min­is­ter

The Borneo Post - - FRONT PAGE -

LON­DON: Bri­tain sought to down­play a row over fu­ture se­cu­rity ties with the EU yes­ter­day, as Lon­don and Brus­sels drew up the first bat­tle lines at the start of their two-year di­vorce.

“It’s not a threat,” Brexit min­is­ter David Davis told BBC ra­dio af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May on Wed­nes­day warned fail­ure to clinch a deal on trade ties would weaken the fight against ter­ror­ism.

But Davis said the ‘ sim­ple truth’ was that with­out a ‘par­al­lel deal’ with Brus­sels, Bri­tain would no longer be part of the Europol crime-fight­ing agency or the Euro­pean Ar­rest War­rant or share se­cu­rity data.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Am­ber Rudd also said that se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion was part of EU mem­ber­ship and would have to be ne­go­ti­ated.

“We are the largest con­trib­u­tor to Europol. So if we left Europol, then we would take our in­for­ma­tion... with us,” she said.

May’s warn­ing was seen as a veiled threat in Brus­sels with the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s chief ne­go­tia­tor, Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt re­tort­ing that ‘ci­ti­zens’ se­cu­rity was far too se­ri­ous a sub­ject” to be held hostage to the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

French am­bas­sador to Bri­tain Sylvie Ber­mann yes­ter­day also told the BBC: “It can’t be a trade­off be­tween an FTA, a free trade agree­ment, and se­cu­rity”.

“I don’t un­der­stand that be­cause it wouldn’t be in the in­ter­est of the UK be­cause we’re all fac­ing the same se­cu­rity chal­lenges,” she said.

Bri­tish news­pa­pers were in no doubt about the sig­nif­i­cance of May’s words as she be­gan Bri­tain’s with­drawal from the Euro­pean Union, nine months on from a ref­er­en­dum vote in favour of Brexit.

‘ Your Money or Your Lives,’ read a front page head­line in the best- sell­ing tabloid The Sun, while The Times said: ‘ May threat to EU ter­ror pact’.

The row came as some of the

We are the largest con­trib­u­tor to Europol. So if we left Europol, then we would take our in­for­ma­tion... with us. Am­ber Rudd, In­te­rior Min­is­ter

EU’s top lead­ers gath­ered to flesh out their strat­egy for the hard talks ahead as the bloc reels from the blow of one of its big­gest mem­bers be­com­ing the first ever state to start with­drawal from the 60-year- old union.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion head Jean- Claude Juncker, who will meet in Malta later with EU Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, German Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel and Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy, urged the re­main­ing 27 EU na­tions to pull to­gether. But the path ahead is strewn with ob­sta­cles, with the fate of three mil­lion EU ci­ti­zens liv­ing in Bri­tain and one mil­lion Bri­tish peo­ple within the bloc’s na­tions top of lead­ers’ agenda.

Also loom­ing large over ne­go­ti­a­tions is the so- called ‘exit bill’ Bri­tain will have to pay, es­ti­mated to be as much as 60 bil­lion eu­ros ( US$ 64 bil­lion, £ 52 bil­lion).

But be­fore these talks can even get un­der way, MPs will be­gin the daunt­ing task of amend­ing or scrap­ping EU reg­u­la­tion as it is brought into Bri­tish law. May told par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day that this was im­por­tant “so that on the day we leave, ev­ery­body knows those rules still ap­ply and ev­ery­body knows where they stand”.

An­a­lysts said the tone of Wed­nes­day’s his­toric an­nounce­ment and the EU’s ini­tial re­ac­tion was largely con­cil­ia­tory ex­cept for the warn­ing on se­cu­rity.

In a let­ter set­ting out Bri­tain’s po­si­tion, May stressed she wanted to “re­main com­mit­ted part­ners and al­lies to our friends across the con­ti­nent” and to forge a ‘deep and spe­cial re­la­tion­ship’ with the rest of the bloc.

But she warned that fail­ure to reach a new trade agree­ment would mean “co­op­er­a­tion in the fight against crime and ter­ror­ism would be weak­ened”.

On the other side of the Chan­nel, pow­er­house leader Merkel called for ‘ fair and con­struc­tive’ ne­go­ti­a­tions and a gloomy Tusk said: “We al­ready miss you.”

How­ever, red lines were quickly drawn, with Merkel dis­miss­ing Bri­tain’s wish to have exit ne­go­ti­a­tions run con­cur­rently with talks on its fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with the EU.

Bri­tish busi­ness lead­ers are also in­creas­ingly alarmed about a cliff edge sce­nario in which Bri­tain leaves the Euro­pean bloc with no deal. The City of Lon­don fi­nan­cial hub has also em­pha­sised the need for a tran­si­tional ar­range­ment to al­low for the di­vorce deal to be grad­u­ally im­ple­mented.

Tusk is due to is­sue draft ‘ne­go­ti­at­ing guide­lines’ on Fri­day and lead­ers of the 27 re­main­ing EU coun­tries will hold a spe­cial sum­mit on April 29 to rub­ber stamp the plans. While the bloc has tried to show a united front in the face of Brexit, cel­e­brat­ing the EU’s 60th an­niver­sary ear­lier this month, in Bri­tain the prime min­is­ter is strug­gling to unite her own coun­try.

Bri­tons last year voted 52 per cent to 48 per cent in favour of Brexit, leav­ing the coun­try bit­terly di­vided with tens of thou­sands of pro- EU protesters march­ing in Lon­don on Satur­day.

The ref­er­en­dum re­sult has also led to a resur­gence of Scot­land’s in­de­pen­dence cam­paign, af­ter Scots voted to stay in the EU but were out­num­bered na­tion­wide.

“Dear Don­ald Tusk, We’ll see EU soon” read yes­ter­day’s head­line of Scot­land’s proin­de­pen­dence news­pa­per, The Na­tional. —AFP

— Reuters photo

Protesters wave Europen Union flags dur­ing an anti-Brexit demon­stra­tion af­ter May trig­gered the process by which the United King­dom will leave the Euo­pean Union, in Birm­ing­ham, Bri­tain.

Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt

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