Theresa May’s Brexit launch suffered a series of heavy blows after key deals of her opening strategy were point-blank rejected by Europe’s top politicians.
German chancellor Angela Markle clearly dismisses her plan to begin talks on a lucrative trade deal, saying negotiations on Britain’s EU divorce – including a bill potentially hitting €60bn – must come first.
According to European Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, plan by Ms May is “blatant threat” to withdraw British terror and crime-fighting co-operation, in order to extract a good trade deal.
Back in London the Prime Minister was accused of souring the fledgling Brexit talks with her attempt to tie pan-European security collaboration to any deal.
This is all happened because of her historic letter to President of the European Council Donald Tusk, officially notifying him of the UK’s intention to trigger Article 50 and quit the bloc.
After receiving the letter in front of a display of Union Jack and EU flags, Mr Tusk spoke of his sorrow at Europe’s rupture, telling Britain “we already miss you”.
Speaking to reporters in Berlin, the German leader said negotiations on British divorce terms would take place first and that only then could the much-desired UK-EU trade talks take place.
According to her letter to Mr Tusk, the Prime Minister underlined several times how the UK believes “it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union”.
Britain may be pushed into agreeing to settle its financial “obligations” to Brussels, which may reach €60bn by some estimates, before it can begin to talk about a trade deal that will help secure the country’s economic future.
Ms May’s apparent attempts to be more tame were overshadowed by her perceived threat to withdraw security co-operation from Europe. Her Article 50 letter to Brussels repeatedly tied security links to any future agreement and warned that the “fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened” if one cannot be struck.
According to Downing street officials the Prime Minister was merely making “a simple statement of fact” that if no deal is reached, it would mean existing arrangements on security co-operation would lapse.
They added that she was referring only to co-operation linked to EU membership like the European Arrest Warrant and shared databases, while Home Secretary Amber Rudd pointed out that the UK is the largest contributor to the pan-European crime-fighting agency Europol.
Chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee Yvette Cooper said withdrawing security cooperation would be “an act of self-harm”, adding: “She should not be trying to use this as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.”
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader says about Ms May’s plans “both reckless and damaging”, but Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron went further branding the move “shameful” and a “blatant threat” that would “backfire”.
Ms May’s letter also throws light on her approach to Brexit, as she said she expected there to be a significant increase in the powers of devolved assemblies as a result of any deal.
The Prime Minister explained that “financial services” and “network industries” that rely on supply chains and the movements of parts, such as the automotive sector, would be a priority.