TALLINN (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May will press on Friday for Britain to have a new security partnership with the European Union after Brexit, visiting 800 British troops in northern Estonia to strengthen her case.
Security cooperation is seen by British government officials as one of their strongest arguments to gain leverage in the complicated talks to unravel more than 40 years of union, and May will again underline Britain’s role in European defense.
In a speech in Florence last week, May sought to re-set the tone of talks and nudge them forward, after they all but stalled over the divorce settlement, especially over the so-called Brexit bill.
But after another week of talks in Brussels, EU negotiators said there had not been enough progress yet to move to the next phase of discussions on a transition period after Brexit or a future trade deal.
“With the largest defense 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 defense has never been more vital,” May said on the eve of an EU meeting in the Estonian capital.
“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.”
The informal get-together in Tallinn, arranged before a “digital summit” on issues ranging from data and cybersecurity to taxing online businesses, has no set agenda, allowing May another chance to pitch her Brexit ideas.
She sought to re-set the tone of the negotiations, using the speech in Florence to offer some concessions on the future role of the European court in Britain and over the cost of the divorce, moves which were cautiously welcomed.
But by focusing on defense in Tallinn, May will want to show that Britain has something to offer its European neighbors and will say she is ready to share British expertise - including through the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) - to help EU nations build up their own cyber-security capability.
“We will continue to work with our NATO allies, our European neighbors and the EU, to support a future partnership of unprecedented breadth and depth,” she said in a statement.
“That will guarantee the security and stability of the continent for generations to come.”
Reporting by Elizabeth Piper