Theresa May to claim Britain's role in Europe’s defence 'has never been more vital'

The PM will insist that Britain is unconditionally committed to the defence and security of Europe

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 28 September 2017 22:44 BST
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May has been accused of using security as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations
May has been accused of using security as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations (EPA)

Theresa May is to reiterate the prowess of British military and security capabilities, claiming that the UK’s role in Europe’s defence “has never been more vital”.

The Prime Minister will say during a speech in Estonia that Britain has the largest defence budget in Europe as she offers expertise to help European member states combat cyber threats.

She will also insist that Britain is unconditionally committed to the defence and security of Europe at the informal talks and is expected to be joined by the French President Emmanuel Macron and Estonian prime minister Juri Ratas.

But some in Brussels are likely to interpret the comments by the Prime Minister as an attempt to use Britain’s security capabilities as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations.

It comes after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Britain has not made “sufficient progress” in the Brexit talks and warned that the EU-imposed starting line to move to trade talks could still be “months” away.

On her visit on Friday, Ms May will tell her European colleagues: “With the largest defence budget in Europe, a far-reaching diplomatic network, world-class security, intelligence and law enforcement services, and our position at the heart of Nato, the UK’s role in Europe’s defence has never been more vital.”

About 800 UK soldiers have been stationed in Tapa since April leading a Nato battle group alongside Estonian and French armed forces.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Ms May said: “From terrorism to cyber-crime, illegal migration to Russian aggression, the threats we face as Europeans are increasing in their scale and complexity. Now more than ever, it is in all our interests to confront them together.

“As we prepare for Brexit, I want to build a bold, new security partnership with the EU. A partnership that reflects our shared history, promotes our common values and maintains a secure and prosperous Europe.

“Nato remains the bedrock of our collective security and there is no clearer demonstration of the UK's unconditional commitment to Europe's defence than the 800 British troops now in Tapa, leading a Nato battlegroup and standing shoulder to shoulder with their Estonian, French and, soon, their Danish counterparts too.

“We will continue to work with our Nato allies, our European neighbours and the EU to support a future partnership of unprecedented breadth and depth, that will guarantee the security and stability of the continent for generations to come.”

Britain is seeking a bespoke deal on security links with the EU under proposals to maintain cooperation on efforts to fight terrorism and serious crime after Brexit. The government wants a “comprehensive” new framework that would be underpinned by a new treaty.

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