Liam Fox accuses EU of trying to 'blackmail' UK over Brexit divorce bill
Liam Fox has insisted the UK will not be "blackmailed" into paying an excessive amount for its 'divorce bill' from the EU.
The International Trade Secretary hit out at Brussels over the pace of negotiations so far, saying businesses were "impatient" for talks to start on the future EU-UK trading relationship.
After the third round of negotiations yesterday the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there had not been "sufficient progress" for him to recommend kicking off the second phase of negotiations.
The UK and EU teams are still at loggerheads on several key issues about the UK's withdrawal, including the financial settlement and citizens' rights - although Mr Barnier did say there had been "fruitful" discussions on the Irish border.
The British team, led by Brexit Secretary David Davis, has declined to say how much the Government is willing to pay as part of the withdrawal process, although a figure of around £30bn has been suggested.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has suggested £55bn, while some reports put the figure as high as £92bn.
Speaking in Japan, where he has been accompanying Theresa May on a three-day visit, Dr Fox said: "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, and it's good for the prosperity both of the British people and of the rest of the people of the European Union.
In a separate interview with BBC News he said companies in both Britain and Europe were becoming impatient with the slow progress of talks.
"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.
In a speech in Washington later today, Mr Davis will strike an upbeat tone about the negotiations, in spite of a difficult first few rounds of talks so far.
"I am a determined optimist," he will say.
"Because I fundamentally believe that a good deal is in the interests of both the UK and the EU and the whole of the developed world."
He will also pledge that the UK will be active in tackling global economic and social problems, saying: "
"By working together with our closest friends and allies...we can tackle some of the greatest social and economic challenges we face.
"But the answer to that concern is not to turn inwards and become isolationist.
"And that is where a strong, outward looking United Kingdom can play an instrumental role."