The comments came after the Prime Minister delivered a keynote speech on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, in which she warned European leaders not to let “doctrine and ideology” stand in the way of preserving cross-border security after Brexit.
After Ms May concluded her speech, however, moderator Wolfgang Ischinger, a German diplomat, started by reading a question to the Prime Minister which began: “Things would be so much easier if you stayed.”
After a loud applause from the delegates gathered in the conference hall Ms May replied: “First of all, if I may respond to your remark, which I recognise received quite a round of applause from the audience, but we are leaving the European Union.
“There is no question of a second referendum or going back on that vote and I think that’s important as we gave the decision to the British people and I believe people have a right to believe that politicians will actually respect their decisions.”
But speaking shortly after a member of the audience also received an applause when he said: “To go back to the early 2000s the French and the Dutch voted against the so-called constitution. And then they voted again and accepted the new framework. That’s not a matter of national shame – I think it may be a matter of national prudence.”
In her speech in Munich, titled Road to Brexit: A Security Partnership, Ms May said replicating the benefits of Europol and the European Arrest Warrant is more important than whether the UK retains formal membership.
She argued that the UK is one of the biggest contributors of data, intelligence and expertise – issuing more than 13,000 alerts on people and objects of interest to law enforcement across Europe in the last year alone.
“Europe’s security is our security,” the Prime Minister told delegates at the three-day event in Germany. “And that is why I have said that the UK is unconditionally committed to maintaining it.”
The international conference brings together defence and foreign affairs ministers from across the globe and delegates included Donald Trump’s national security adviser and British intelligence chiefs such as John Scarlett of the MI6.
The Prime Minister also used her speech – the second of six key addresses by the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet ministers mapping out the Government’s plans for Brexit – to insist that Britain and the EU 27 must “move with urgency” to implement a new security treaty
Speaking after the conference Alison McGovern, a Labour MP and leading supporter of Open Britain, a pro-EU pressure group, said that the Prime Minister had just made an “extremely positive argument against Brexit”, adding that she was right to warn against putting ideology above the interests of citizens.
She continued: “But she remains determined to pursue the hardest and most destructive form of Brexit imaginable, which makes weakening our security cooperation with the EU all but inevitable.”
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