Philip Hammond has called on Europe’s leaders to spell out what they want from Brexit, declaring: “It takes two to tango.”
The Chancellor, seen as the Cabinet’s leading Remainer, made his plea in a speech to business leaders in Berlin during a visit to Germany billed as a charm offensive.
After a joint plea with Brexit Secretary David Davis for tariff-free trade between the UK and Germany, Mr Hammond appealed for co-operation and no “punishment” for Brexit.
The Chancellor’s speech was a riposte to the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who 24 hours earlier complained about a lack of detailed UK proposals on trade.
Speaking at the Die Welt economic summit dinner, Mr Hammond said: “They say ‘it takes two to tango’. Both sides need to be clear about what they want from a future relationship.
“I know the repeated complaint from Brussels has been that the UK ‘hasn’t made up its mind as to what type of relationship it wants’.
“But in London, many feel that we have little, if any, signal of what future relationship the EU27 would like to have with a post-Brexit Britain.”
Mr Hammond said that since the EU referendum there had been a relative silence from Europe on what the EU wanted the future relationship with the UK to be like.
“I am saying this to you tonight because I fear many EU opinion formers see this as a question only for British politicians for British voters to resolve, before they engage with the EU27,” he added.
“By signalling a willingness to work together in a spirit of pragmatic cooperation on a future, mutually beneficial partnership, based on high levels of access for goods and services, continued close cooperation in security and defence, in education, science, technology, and culture.
“Putting behind us any narrative of ‘punishment’ for leaving and focusing on the mutually beneficial relationships we have now and can continue in the future, the EU will send a message to the British people which will resonate as they consider the options for their future. And that is my challenge to you.”
In his speech earlier, Mr Barnier said: “What kind of future relationship does the UK want with the European Union? We don’t yet have the answer to this question.”
The trade plea from Mr Hammond and Mr Davis, who was also visiting Germany for Brexit talks, came in a jointly-written article for a Frankfurt newspaper.
“As two of Europe’s biggest economies, it makes no sense to either Germany or Britain to put in place unnecessary barriers to trade in goods and services that would only damage businesses and economic growth on both sides of the Channel,” they wrote.