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May lumps trade and security together in one paragraph of Brexit letter

She rejects accusations that she is using security as a bargaining chip

CNN  — 

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of threatening to use the safety of UK and European citizens as a bargaining chip in Brexit talks.

In the formal letter that notified the European Union of Britain’s intention to leave, May warned that the failure to strike a deal on any future relationship would have consequences for security.

“In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened,” she wrote in the letter to European Council President Donald Tusk.

In all, May mentioned security 11 times in the six-page letter, hand-delivered at lunchtime to Tusk in Brussels by Britain’s ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow..

‘Shameful threat’

The European Parliament’s co-ordinator for Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, said the EU would oppose any attempt by Britain to link security with trade.

Asked if he thought May was engaged in “blackmail”, Verhofstadt said: “I try to be a gentleman, so towards a lady I don’t even use or think about the word ‘blackmail’,” he told a press conference in Brussels, the Press Association reported.

In the House of Commons in London, Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, who oppose Brexit, said May’s linking of trade and security was “shameful” and a “blatant threat.”

“Security is too important to be used as a bargaining chip and this will backfire in any negotiations, which rather than building up alliances will leave Britain even more isolated,” he said.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper echoed the concerns. “Completely irresponsible to threaten, gamble or bargain on national security,” she wrote on Twitter.

May said that it would be important to negotiate a future deal on security.

“We have a relationship with the European Union, there are certain elements of the European Union in justice and home affairs that we’re currently members of that in leaving the European Union we would not be members of, and we need to negotiate what the future relationship will be,” she told MPs.

“It’s very simple, it’s very pragmatic and the aim of this will be to ensure cooperation on these matters.”

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons in London  in this image taken from video  Wednesday March 29, 2017. May will announce to Parliament that Britain is set to formally file for divorce from the European Union Wednesday, ending a 44-year relationship, enacting the decision made by U.K. voters in a referendum nine months ago and launching both Britain and the bloc into uncharted territory.  (Parliamentary Recording Unit  via AP)
PM Theresa May's full Brexit speech
16:36 - Source: CNN

In a BBC interview later Wednesday, May said a comprehensive trade agreement and security matters were part of the “raft of negotiations” that would unfold over the next two years.