September 30, 2018 / 3:04 PM / 16 days ago

EU disrespect to May 'beyond the pale', says UK trade minister

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - The European Union’s “taunting” of Prime Minister Theresa May at a summit in Salzburg this month was “beyond the pale”, British trade minister Liam Fox said on Sunday.

Britain's Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox arrives in Downing Street, London, September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

EU leaders rejected May’s so-called Chequers Brexit proposals at the summit in Austria, saying she needed to give ground on trade and customs arrangements for the UK border with Ireland.

British newspapers widely viewed some of the comments by European leaders as insulting, especially one social media post by European Council President Donald Tusk. The post in question was a picture of him offering cake to May, with the caption saying, “sorry, no cherries”.

“We have a right to expect our EU partners to engage seriously, and with respect, on our shared future relationship. It is simply not acceptable to dismiss the UK’s proposals without putting any other alternative in place,” Fox told the governing Conservative Party’s annual conference.

“I’m sure I wasn’t the only one after Salzburg to feel that the taunting of Theresa May, one of the most unfailingly polite people I have ever met, was absolutely beyond the pale.”

Just six months before Britain is due to leave the EU in the country’s biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years, the debate over how to leave the bloc is still raging.

Fox said it was time to stop arguing about the outcome of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

“We must stop re-fighting the referendum and come together to honour the democratic will of the British people or we will risk undermining faith in that democratic system,” he said.

Fox said Britain would seek to maximise its trading relationship with the EU but in a way that boosts opportunities to exploit growing markets in the rest of the world.

“The decisions that we take in the coming days and months will profoundly shape our relationship with the European Union and the world beyond,” he said.

Reporting Kylie MacLellan; Editing by David Goodman

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