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Philip Hammond to tell EU ‘it takes two to tango’ over future relationship

Philip Hammond will use a speech in Germany tonight to urge European Union governments to make the case publicly for a close future relationship with Britain after Brexit, saying: “It takes two to tango.”

Speaking in Berlin, at a conference hosted by the newspaper Die Welt, the chancellor will accuse Britain’s negotiating partners of giving “little, if any signal”, of how the other member states want to work with Britain after the “implementation period” that will start in March 2019.

“They say it takes two to tango. Both sides need to be clear about what they want from a future relationship,” he will say.

“I know the repeated complaint from Brussels has been that the UK hasn’t made up its mind 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,” he will say.

He will suggest there has been a “marked asymmetry”, between the “enthusiasm” expressed by non-EU countries keen to strike future trade deals with the UK and what he will call “the relative silence, in public at least, from Europe on what the EU wants our future relationship to look like”.

Theresa May’s cabinet held its first formal discussion of the so-called “end state” for the Brexit talks before Christmas, with rival camps favouring a closer, Norway-style relationship and the looser “Canada plus” approach favoured by the Brexitsecretary, David Davis.

Hammond is widely seen as an advocate for the closest possible relationship with the EU27, but in his speech, he will urge other countries to make the case publicly for a mutually beneficial deal.

“I am saying this to you tonight, because I fear that 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 will say.

He will argue that by “signalling a willingness to work together”, Britain’s EU partners could, “send a message to the British people which will resonate as they consider the options for their future”.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has repeatedly complained of a lack of clarity on Britain’s hopes for the outcome of the talks.

Negotiations are now continuous, with officials shuttling backwards and forwards to Brussels, though the EU27 have not yet agreed their negotiating guidelines for the “implementation period” that will begin in March next year.