'What?' Former UK PM May shocked by minister's Brexit remark on security

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at Chatham House in London, Britain July 17, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Pool

LONDON (Reuters) - Former British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed shock in parliament on Monday at a remark from Boris Johnson’s Brexit supremo that the country would be safer outside the European Union than inside the bloc.

May, forced to resign in July 2019 after her Brexit deal was repeatedly defeated by parliament, asked Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove about the implications for security of leaving the EU without a deal.

May said walking away with no deal would cut off access to European databases that allow police and the security forces to catch criminals and extremists, and thus hinder British security.

“There are many, many areas in which we can cooperate more effectively to safeguard our borders outside the European Union than we ever could inside through a variety of methods and arrangements,” Gove said in response. “We can intensify the security that we give to the British people.”

May raised her eyebrows in puzzlement, looked across at colleagues and asked “What?”

She is also a former home secretary (interior minister) who dealt closely with EU counterparts on security and terrorism issues for years before becoming prime minister in 2016.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Editing by Paul Sandle and Mark Heinrich