London [UK], Mar. 30 : Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of threatening to use the safety of British 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, reports the CNN.
"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.
In all, she mentioned security 11 times in the six-page letter. Commenting on the issue, leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron, who is anti- Brexit, said her link between 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.
Speaking in the Commons, Stephen Kinnock of the opposition Labour Party read out an excerpt from the letter and asked, "Is she really saying the security of our country will be traded like a bargaining chip in these negotiations?" May replied 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.
It's very simple, it's very pragmatic and the aim of this will be to ensure cooperation on these matters," she added.
The UK government on Wednesday kick started the Brexit process for Britain to formally leave the European Union (EU) in two years time by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
The official start to the Brexit process came nine months after the UK voted in a hotly contested referendum that exposed deep divisions across the country.
In her letter, May said the UK wanted to pursue a "bold and ambitions" free-trade agreement with the EU in forthcoming talks.
May has made clear that the country will not remain in the bloc's single market or customs union, which essentially make the EU a free-trade zone.
Staying in the market would likely have forced Britain to keep its borders open to all EU citizens, a key argument by the Leave campaign to exit the union.
In her letter, May tried to strike a conciliatory tone with the EU, reiterating her hopes for Britain and the union to remain the closest of allies and to seek a "deep and special partnership." She also made clear that she wanted to avoid walking away with no deal, and proposed several principles to guide negotiations.
Meanwhile, May also accepted there would be downsides of Brexit. "We know that we will lose influence over the rules that affect the European economy. We know that UK companies that trade with the EU will have to align with rules agreed by institutions of which we are no longer a part, just as we do in other overseas markets.
We accept that," she told MPs..