U.K. Trade Envoy Fox Accuses EU of `Blackmail' Over Brexit Bill

(Bloomberg) -- With the latest round of Brexit talks ending in deadlock, the U.K.’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox accused the European Union of seeking to blackmail Britain into paying a divorce bill.

Fox was asked by ITV News whether it was time for the U.K. government to agree on the much-disputed departure settlement with the EU to hasten progress towards the second part of the process involving discussions of the future relationship, including trade.

U.K. Trade Envoy Fox Accuses EU of `Blackmail' Over Brexit Bill

“We can’t be blackmailed into paying a price on the first part,” Fox told ITV News early Friday in Japan, where he was accompanying Prime Minister Theresa May. “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.”

How much Britain must pay to settle what the EU says are its obligations is one of the most contentious points in the ongoing negotiations. Talks on the future relationship can’t start without EU leaders giving the go-ahead, which they’ve said they won’t do until the divorce bill is resolved.

The prime minister is under pressure to make progress, with Parliament returning from recess next week. Brexit secretary David Davis hinted on Wednesday that the U.K. wants to tie what it owes to a transitional agreement, but Fox’s comments show the difficulty May faces in balancing the demands of pro-EU and pro-Brexit lawmakers with the clock ticking until the U.K.’s exit in March 2019.