France's economy minister has dismissed suggestions that the U.K. is being "blackmailed" into agreeing a fee for its split from the EU before formal trade talks can begin.
"There's no blackmail. There is no blackmail," Bruno Le Maire told CNBC on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy over the weekend. "You cannot rewrite the past and what's been decided has been decided. There will be no blackmail but there will be decision," Le Maire said, suggesting that there's no turning back on the U.K.'s decision to leave the EU.
Le Maire's comments came shortly after a statement made by the U.K.'s Trade Secretary Liam Fox. During a trip to Japan last week, Fox said the U.K. could not be blackmailed into paying a bill before there's an agreement on their future relationship - something that the EU opposes completely and which the U.K. had previously agreed upon.
"We can't be blackmailed into paying a price on the first part," he said. "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."
Brexit discussions cranked up a notch at the Ambrosetti Forum in Lake Como over the weekend. The EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that the British people hadn't been properly told about the consequences of leaving the single market – an area where goods, services and people move freely. As such, Barnier said that Brexit would be "an educational process" for the British.
The relationship between the U.K. and Europe has become tense after the third round of negotiations, which ended last Thursday. The European Union warned that there hadn't been enough progress to comply with the timeline originally agreed. The official timeline indicates that London and Brussels can discuss trade links and their future relationship in October, but that seems now very unlikely.