British prime minister Theresa May has made her case for a new security treaty with the EU from next year, with EU officials agreeing the issue was too important to risk getting subsumed in broader Brexit negotiations.
Speaking in Munich as she attended the security conference there, Mrs May promised that London would continue to lead military missions and share intelligence if Brussels agreed to a pact “effective from 2019”. Britain is due to leave the European Union in March of next year.
Mrs May emphasised she was unconditionally committed to European security, warned against competition between Britain and the rest of Europe and said that both sides should do “whatever is most practical and pragmatic in ensuring our collective security.”
Mrs May’s government is using a series of speeches to set out its vision for Britain outside the EU.
She also ruled out a second vote on the country’s membership of the European Union, saying there was no going back on the result of the June 2016 vote.
“We are leaving the EU and there is no question of a second referendum or going back and I think that’s important.
“People in the UK feel very strongly that if we take a decision, then governments should turn not round and say no you got that wrong,” she said when asked if Britain would consider a second referendum.
Meanwhile, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed the idea for what he called a “security alliance” with Britain, adding that the issue should be separated from the rest of the Brexit debate.
Britain, along with France, is Europe’s biggest military power and leads two European Union military missions while sending troops to Estonia under a NATO flag. With a host of issues still unresolved and infighting over Brexit dividing Mrs May’s government just over a year before Britain is due to leave, security is one of London’s biggest bargaining chips as it seeks a new deal with Brussels.
Mr Juncker said security should not be conflated with “other questions relating to Brexit,” but also quashing any British hopes that a security treaty might be a way into a free-trade deal.
“I wouldn’t like to put security policy considerations with trade policy considerations in one hat. I understand why some would like to do that, but we don’t want to,” he said.
Britain’s interior minister last year told the EU it could “take our information with us” if it left the bloc without a deal on security, jeopardising its membership of agencies such as Europol.