Theresa May poured scorn on Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit security commitments as she warned of the dangers of a no-deal scenario.
The Conservative former prime minister repeatedly said “what?” in disbelief and appeared to mouth “utter rubbish” as Michael Gove outlined how the UK will be expected to boost its security outside the EU.
Cabinet Office minister Mr Gove claimed there are “many, many areas” in which the UK can co-operate “more effectively” to protect its borders after Brexit.
Speaking in the Commons, Mrs May warned: “The Government appears resigned to the prospect of no deal, yet one area which they should not be resigned to the prospect of no deal is in security.”
Mrs May said neither Mr Gove nor Prime Minister Mr Johnson had mentioned security in recent statements.
She added: “Will (Mr Gove) confirm that, if the UK walks away with no deal, then our police and law enforcement agencies will no longer have the necessary access to databases, such as PNR (passenger name record), in order to continue to identify and catch criminals and potential terrorists in order to keep us safe?”
Mr Gove said “significant progress” has been made over security co-operation, adding: “But it is the case that the EU are insisting that, before we have access to systems, like the Schengen Information System, we have to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice – we cannot accept that.
“The second thing I’d say is there are many, many areas in which we can co-operate more effectively to safeguard our borders outside the European Union than we ever could inside, through a variety of methods and arrangements open to us, open to Border Force and open to our security and intelligence services – we can intensify the security that we give to the British people.
“The third thing I’d say to (Mrs May) is that I agree with her: when it comes to everything, security and other matters, no deal is better than a bad deal.”
Former UK national security adviser Lord Ricketts described Mr Gove’s comments as “extraordinary”, adding on Twitter: “He knows perfectly well that without a deal the UK will lose access to EU databases and alerting systems.
“These are used intensively by UK police.
“Alternatives will be much slower.
“In security cooperation, speed=safety.”