Liam Fox has accused Brussels of trying to “blackmail” the UK into agreeing a Brexit divorce bill.
On a business delegation to Japan, the International Trade Secretary expressed frustration at the European Union’s insistence on agreeing a settlement before moving on to trade talks.
He told Sky News: “I think there is frustration that we have not been able to get on that longer-term issue, that we’re stuck on this separation issue and we’re not able to get onto the issues that will matter in the longer term for the future prosperity of the UK and the people of Europe.”
Dr Fox says businesses from across Europe want “more pressure” put on the EU commission to open up talks about the future relationship without insisting that UK payments are agreed upon first.
Speaking to ITN News he added: “We can’t be blackmailed into paying a price on the first part.
“We think we should begin discussions on the final settlement because that’s good for business.”
Yesterday, EU negotiator Michel Barnier accused his British counterparts of being “nostalgic and unrealistic” as talks reached deadlock.
The impasse could thwart the UK’s ambition to start trade talks this autumn.
Dr Fox also lent his support to Theresa May’s ambitions to lead the Conservatives into the next General Election saying she should remain leader “as long as she wished to”.
This week he and the Prime Minster have secured agreement for a future free trade deal with Japan based on the one the country is in the process of finalising with the EU.
Responding to criticism from Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable that this was a “cut and paste” deal, Dr Fox said: “I would say that it betrays a lack of understanding of trade deals, which is par for the course because that seems to be the lack of understanding on all the other issues.”