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Brexit: UK ‘must not allow itself to be blackmailed’ – BBC News

Liam Fox speaking in JapanImage copyright
PA

Image caption

Mr Fox spoke to the media at the end of a three-day visit to Japan

The UK must not allow itself to be “blackmailed” by the EU over its Brexit settlement bill in order to start trade talks, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said.

He said a bad Brexit deal would damage both British and European companies.

Businesses have become impatient with the slow progress of the Brexit negotiations, he added.

The latest Brexit talks have stalled over the failure to reach agreement on the UK’s so-called divorce bill.

Both the UK and EU have expressed frustration at the pace of the talks.

The UK wants to begin trade talks as soon as possible, but Brussels insists that discussions about the future relationship can begin only once “sufficient progress” has been made on the arrangements for withdrawal – including the “divorce fee”.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier said that at the current rate of progress, he was quite far from being able to recommend opening parallel talks on a future trade relationship.

No figure has yet been put on the divorce payment, but European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has suggested it could come in at about 60bn euros (£55bn), while unconfirmed reports have put it as high as 100bn euros (£92bn).

Media captionDavid Davis, Brexit secretary: “I think it’s fair to say we’ve seen some concrete progress”

Speaking in Japan on Friday, Mr Fox said everyone would benefit from Brexit if the outcome was free trade with no tariff barriers.

Asked whether it was time for the UK to name its Brexit price, he told ITV News: “We can’t be blackmailed into paying a price on the first part (the divorce fee).

“We think we should begin discussions on the final settlement because that’s good for business, and it’s good for the prosperity both of the British people and of the rest of the people of the European Union.”

He and Prime Minister Theresa May have been holding talks with Japanese leaders about the future of trading relations between the two countries after Brexit.

‘Unlock some tension’

Speaking to the BBC at the end of the three-day visit, Mr Fox said: “It’s very clear that businesses, not just in Europe but investors in places like here in Japan, are getting impatient and want to see what that final shape of that [Brexit] arrangement is going to be.”

He said a willingness by the EU to negotiate on the future trading relationship now would “unlock some of the tension”.

He added he thought it was a “mistake” for the EU to think a delay in talking about the economy and the trading arrangement would not potentially damage them too.

Media captionMichel Barnier, EU’s chief Brexit negotiator: UK’s requests are “simply impossible”

Speaking on Thursday after talks in Brussels with Brexit Secretary David Davis, Mr Barnier said the UK did not feel “legally obliged to honour its obligations” after Brexit.

He said “no decisive progress” had been made on key issues, following the third round of talks.

Mr Davis said the UK had a “duty to our taxpayers” to “rigorously” examine the EU’s demands.

And he urged the EU to be “more imaginative and flexible” in its approach.

Brexit: UK ‘must not allow itself to be blackmailed’ – BBC News

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