Theresa May was accused last night of trying to blackmail the EU over a Brexit trade deal. In a show of steel that angered Brussels, the Prime Minister suggested she could withdraw co-operation on security unless a fair agreement was struck.
She used her Article 50 letter, which launches a two-year divorce process, to warn the EU against trying to damage Britain at such a dangerous time. The 28-state bloc leans heavily on UK intelligence and policing expertise. Mrs May’s warning was described as tantamount to blackmail by Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator.
EU leaders quickly said they would block Mrs May’s demand for a trade deal to be negotiated alongside the terms of Britain’s departure.
CREDIT: MARCO RAVAGLI / BARCROFT IMAGES
‘The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship,’ said German chancellor Angela Merkel.
‘Only when this question is dealt with can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship.’ French president Francois Hollande said Brexit ‘would be painful for the British’. The security row came as:
- Mrs May said Brexit was ‘a historic moment with no turning back’;
- Downing Street said the UK would leave the EU at midnight on March 29, 2019;
- Jeremy Corbyn warned Labour would vote against a bad Brexit deal;
- The SNP said Scottish independence was ‘inevitable’ unless it could stay in the single market;
- The PM floated the idea of transitional period to phase in immigration and customs changes.