Background Briefing: Theresa May's Munich Speech


On Saturday 17 February, Theresa May will deliver a speech at the annual high-level Munich Security Conference on Brexit & Security. The Prime Minister has herself stated in the past that EU security co-operation works well for the UK and has noted that a failure to reach a deal would be bad for UK security.

Moreover, leading figures in the world of security and defence policy have underlined how complicated Brexit will make future UK-EU security co-operation. The former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has stated that whilst on trade, there is a “fall-back” option of trading under the WTO [however bad that scenario that would be] on security co-operation, there is no such possibility.[1]

In the June 2016 referendum nobody voted to make themselves less secure but with the directionless approach which the Government have taken so far on the Brexit negotiations and the ridiculous red lines she has laid down, there is a real risk that come 29 March 2019, the UK will be in a less secure position than it is today. Open Britain strongly believe that there is no argument for leaving the existing EU security apparatus from which the UK benefits today.

This briefing provides previous statements which Theresa May has made on the importance of the EU for UK security as well as quotes by key individuals working in the field of international security who support this view.  


Statements by Theresa May on the importance of EU security co-operation:

As Home Secretary

As Home Secretary, Theresa May repeatedly sang the virtues of EU security co-operation, highlighting the importance of the European Arrest Warrant to the United Kingdom and underlining that staying within the European Union was important for overall UK security.

“My Right Honourable friend makes an extremely valid point and it was the point I was hoping to illustrate at the beginning of my speech which is that the European arrest warrant has given us distinct advantages in our ability to deal with people and in our ability to extradite criminals back to the United Kingdom and, indeed, for people to be extradited elsewhere when they have committed crimes that warrant that extradition.”[2]

Theresa May, Speech to the House of Commons as Home Secretary on 10 July 2014

"A number of mechanisms that we are part of within the European Union enhance our security."[3]

Theresa May, speech to the House of Commons, 23 March 2016

Outside the EU, for example, we would have no access to the European Arrest Warrant, which has allowed us to extradite more than 5,000 people from Britain to Europe in the last five years, and bring 675 suspected or convicted wanted individuals to Britain to face justice.  It has been used to get terror suspects out of the country and bring terrorists back here to face justice… So my judgement, as Home Secretary, is that remaining a member of the European Union means we will be more secure from crime and terrorism.”[4]  

Theresa May, speech on Brexit, 25 April 2016


As Prime Minister

Since having become Prime Minister, Theresa May has again underlined the importance of existing EU security structures for the UK, spelled out in her Article 50 letter to EU Council President, Donald Tusk, the need to reach an agreement on security and highlighted the importance of continued close security co-operation in light of Russian aggression ahead of a visit to Estonia.    

The Schengen Information System… it’s about serious and organised criminals as well, it’s about identification of people who are travelling across borders. And as part of the negotiations we will be looking at that and at various other programmes and projects and arrangements of cooperation that we have currently as a member of the European Union which would lapse when we leave the European Union and to continue to have those in future.[5] 

Theresa May 5 June 2017, Sky News

In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.[6]

Theresa May, UK Article 50 letter to Donald Tusk, 29 March 2017.

“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.”[7]

Theresa May, speaking ahead of a visit to Estonia, 28 September 2017


Quotes by Security & Defence experts:

Experts within the security and defence community have been clear that Brexit will impact negatively on the UK’s security, making existing UK-EU co-operation more difficult and making it harder for the UK to be able to play a leading role on global security issues.

"Of course we cooperate with countries around the world but what we have in the EU is a set of arrangements that is particularly effective."[8] The Lord Advocate, Scotland’s Chief Prosecutor, 2 February 2018

It has taken Brexit and a careless, needless attitude to continuing British influence in NATO to produce a formula which will consign Britain to the margins. That is a sad and indefensible indictment of those who presently run our nation’s defences.”[9] Lord George Robertson, NATO Secretary General 1999 – 2003, The New European 19 October 2017

“The government is increasingly perceived to be unable to make difficult decisions, distracted by Brexit and unable to play an international role that is commensurate with the resources it devotes to this purpose. The longer this policy paralysis continues, the greater the risk to the UK’s reputation as a reliable ally, and the stronger the (unfair) perception that it is no longer capable of being a serious security player.”[10]

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Deputy Director general of the Royal United Services Institute 6 February 2018  

“My concern on the intelligence and security front is over the exchange of data. Data is now central to the way in which security services in particular monitor threats. The rules on exchange of data are going to be set in the EU and we won’t be round the table with our voice, stressing the vital importance of these data exchanges to our national security.”[11]

Michael Sawers, Former Head of Mi6, Interview with Prospect magazine, 14 February 2018

“If we’re to maintain the depth of co-operation we have with our European neighbours after we leave the European Union that means tackling some difficult issues on foreign, defence, and perhaps most of all security issues and on security the key issue is data sharing. Because now, today, as a result our membership of the EU, our police and intelligent services are able to exchange data in real time…If we have no deal on Brexit, much of that data exchange is going to have to be significantly curtailed because it will have no legal basis for doing so.”[12] Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Deputy Director general of the Royal United Services Institute The Today Programme, 16 February 2018

“It’s obvious that you decided to leave the EU, we will respect that but in an inter-connected world you also have to realise that you are dependent on other partners…when it comes to trade you have the WTO fall-back option. When it comes to security, you don’t have any fall-back option.[13]

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General 2009 – 2014, Today Programme, 16 February 2018

[Being out of the European Arrest Warrant] would be very serious for the National Crime Agency for example and if you remember the days before the European Arrest Warrant when we relied on a 1957 convention it took sometimes years to extradite people and there were great complaints in the press everyday and in Parliament about the length of time it took to get people out.”[14]

Robert Hannigan, former Head of GCHQ, Today Programme 16 February 2018


[1]  (1:36:00 – 1:37:45)

[2]  & 12:58:52 – 12:59:16

[3] & (13:01:45 – 13:01:52)


[5] (30:10 – 30:29)







[12] (1:32:00 – 1:32:45)

[13]  (1:36:00 – 1:37:45)

[14] (2:16:27 – 2:16:45)