BRUSSELS • After a third round of Brexit talks ended in acrimony, British Trade Minister Liam Fox said his country would not be blackmailed into agreeing on the cost of leaving the EU, and urged Brussels to discuss Britain's future relationship with the bloc.
The latest round of Brexit negotiations, focused on settling the terms of Britain's exit from the European Union, ended on Thursday with a warning from Brussels that more work needed to be done before they moved on to discuss future ties. The British government has been keen to shift talks to a new relationship, seeking to allay business concerns on trade and regulation, but Brussels has demanded progress first on central issues, including how much Britain should pay when it leaves.
The European Parliament's Brexit point man Guy Verhofstadt wrote in Britain's Telegraph newspaper that while it is in the EU's interests "to secure a close relationship... we must first agree a methodology for the settling of accounts, secure the rights of EU citizens in the UK and have a frank discussion about the Irish border".
Mr Fox, visiting Japan with Prime Minister Theresa May, yesterday told broadcaster ITV: "We can't be blackmailed into paying a price on the first part."
The Brexit bill is a contentious issue both in Britain, where euro sceptics are keen to see as little money paid as possible, and with the EU, which is demanding Britain meets its existing commitments to the bloc.
Britain has said it is prepared to meet its international obligations and, on Thursday, Brexit Minister David Davis said London was willing to offer more than the bare legal minimum.
Mr Fox said businesses across Europe had told him they were keen to see more detail on what Britain's new relationship with the EU would look like. "We think we should begin discussions on the final settlement," Mr Fox said.
The latest round of Brexit negotiations, focused on settling the terms of Britain's exit from the EU, ended on Thursday with a warning from Brussels that more work needed to be done before they moved on to discuss future ties.
But Mr Verhofstadt said Britain's efforts to press for "a new Customs union" and to recreate the EU's structures were "in order to continue to benefit from the best elements of the EU, without it being called the EU".
"This is not serious, fair or even possible given the negotiating time remaining," he added.
Observers say the moment could be approaching when national leaders have to step in and break the deadlock, possibly as early as an EU summit on Oct 19.
"What it ultimately will come down to is a crunch summit at which key players will have to make decisions on what is acceptable," Mr Craig Oliver, who was director of communications for then Prime Minister David Cameron, said in an interview.