Theresa May has warned EU leaders that “deep-seated ideology” must not jeopardise security cooperation after Brexit.
The prime minister said the UK take full control over areas like diplomacy, peacekeeping, defence before the end of any implementation period to follow its departure of the EU.
In a speech at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, May said: “We must do whatever is most practical and pragmatic in ensuring our collective security.
“This cannot be a time when any of us allow competition between partners, rigid institutional restrictions or deep-seated ideology to inhibit our co-operation and jeopardise the security of our citizens.”
Speaking after May, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said security arrangements had to be maintained, saying: “We are not at war with the UK... We do not want to take revenge on the UK for what the British people have decided.”
But he said security issues had to be considered separately in the Brexit talks.
“We need a security alliance between the UK and the EU, but we can’t mix that question up with other questions relating to Brexit,” Juncker said.
“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,”
Common EU policy on foreign and security areas grew out of the Maastricht Treaty, so May’s move is likely to please Brexiteers.
She stressed that Britain will continue to work closely with the EU on security and said the UK’s commitment to protecting Europe from threats is “unconditional”.
May said: “There is no reason why we should not agree distinct arrangements for our foreign and defence policy co-operation in the time-limited implementation period as the Commission has proposed.”
She added: “We shouldn’t wait where we don’t need to.”
“Of course, we will continue to work with and alongside each other. But where we can both be most effective – by the UK deploying its significant capabilities and resources with and indeed through EU mechanisms – we should both be open to that.
“On defence, if the UK and EU’s interests can best be furthered by the UK continuing to contribute to an EU operation or mission as we do now, then we should both be open to that.
“And similarly, while the UK will decide how we spend the entirety of our foreign aid in the future, if a UK contribution to EU development programmes and instruments can best deliver our mutual interests, we should both be open to that.
“But if we are to choose to work together in these ways, the UK must be able to play an appropriate role in shaping our collective actions in these areas.”
May also called for an “open and inclusive approach” on defence capability projects.
“We need to make sure that Western values and Western interests are upheld in this rapidly changing world where the West is less dominant in an economic sphere.”