Liam Fox is like a husband who wants to “divorce his wife but keep all the assets” because his plans for Brexit are so unrealistic, an Irish minister says.
The International Trade minister has come under fire in a leaked memo revealing confidential discussions of a Cabinet subcommittee meeting in Dublin.
The document, obtained by The Irish Times, also identified France and other Mediterranean countries as the EU nations most likely to accept a hard Brexit.
Dr Fox, one of three so-called Brexit ministers, met the Irish Minister for Jobs, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, for talks in London earlier this month.
They are known to have discussed the unique impact on Ireland of Britain leaving the EU, cross-border issues and the European Commission’s plans to strengthen the single market.
Dr Fox has led the Cabinet faction pushing for a hard Brexit, which would see the UK leave both the single market and the customs union, in order to strike trade deals with non-EU countries.
According to The Irish Times, Ms Mitchell O’Connor told the subcommittee that Dr Fox left her with the impression of a divorcing husband who wants to keep the family home and all other assets after the split.
He said he expected to maintain access to the single market, while introducing curbs on immigration – despite EU leaders insisting such a deal will not be possible.
And he is understood to have argued that, if access to the single market is refused, the EU would have to pay compensation to countries, such as South Korea, with which the EU has a free trade deal.
Compensation would have to be paid because the market for South Korea would shrink if Britain was no longer a part of it.
Ms Mitchell O’Connor’s comments are said to have provoked laughter from other Irish ministers, while reflecting concern about British expectations for the EU negotiations.
Charlie Flanagan, the Foreign Affairs Minister, told an earlier meeting of the same Brexit subcommittee that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had declined to set out how Britain would approach the talks.
The memo also outlined the approach Ireland must take to building alliances to ensure that Britain maintains as close ties as possible to the EU.
It said: “It will be important to identify those member states that, like Ireland, are likely to favour a future status for the UK as close as possible to the current arrangements, and those member states which might not be unduly concerned if a hard Brexit were to happen.”
Those “unduly concerned” countries were said to include France and other Mediterranean nations.Reuse content