World

Britain downplaying EU security row

British PM plays hardball over anti-terror cooperation after Brexit

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

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

But Mr Davis said the "simple truth" was that without a "parallel deal" with Brussels, Britain would no longer be a 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.

Mrs 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.

TRADE-OFF

French ambassador to Britain Sylvie Bermann also told the BBC yesterday: "It can't be a trade-off 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."

British newspapers were in no doubt about the significance of Mrs May's words as she began Britain's withdrawal from the EU, 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 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 met EU President Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Malta yesterday, urged the remaining 27 EU nations to pull together.

But the path ahead is strewn with obstacles, with the fate of 3 million EU citizens living in Britain and 1 million British people within the bloc's nations top of the 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 (S$90 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.

Mrs 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 were largely conciliatory except for the warning on security. - AFP

Britain does not expect $87 billion bill: Brexit minister

LONDON: Brexit minister David Davis said he did not expect Britain to have to pay £50 billion (S$87 billion) to the European Union as part of the Brexit process.

He also said the era of huge sums being paid to Brussels was coming to an end.

British media reports suggested that Britain could have to pay around £50 to £60 billion in order to honour existing budget commitments as it negotiates its departure from the bloc.

'LAW-ABIDING'

"We have not actually had any sort of submission to us from the commission. But our view is very simple, we will meet our obligations, we are a law-abiding country," Mr Davis told broadcaster ITV yesterday.

"We will meet our responsibilities, but we are not expecting anything like that.

"The era of huge sums being paid to the European Union is coming to an end, so once we are out, that is it." - REUTERS

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