Britain's chief negotiator in the country's divorce from the European Union on Thursday rejected suggestions the UK has threatened to end security cooperation unless it gets the trade deal it wants.
David Davis said Prime Minister Theresa May's letter triggering talks on Britain's departure made clear Britain wants to continue to work with the EU on a range of issues, including security, for both sides.
"We want a deal, and she was making the point that it's bad for both of us if we don't have a deal," Davis told the BBC. "Now that, I think, is a perfectly reasonable point to make and not in any sense a threat."
May's six-page letter triggering two years of divorce negotiations makes 11 references to security, and said that without a good deal, "our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened."
The tabloid Sun was in no doubt about what May meant: "Your money or your lives," was its front-page headline Thursday, along with the words "PM's Brexit threat to EU."
Britain is a European security powerhouse, one of only two nuclear powers in the bloc and with some of the world's most capable intelligence services.
May said Wednesday that Britain will probably have to leave the EU police agency, Europol, after Brexit but wants to "maintain the degree of cooperation on these matters that we have currently."
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, whose responsibilities include intelligence and security, also denied there was a threat, but told Sky News: "If we left Europol, then we would take our information ... with us. The fact is, the European partners want to keep our information."
Senior European leaders responded positively to the warm overall tone of May's letter, but they could not miss the steely undertone.
"I find the letter of Mrs May very constructive generally, but there is also one threat in it," said European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhoftstadt, saying May seemed to be demanding a good trade deal in exchange for continued security cooperation.
"It doesn't work like that," he told Sky News. "You cannot abuse the security of citizens to have then a good deal on something else."