Boris Johnson has been accused of “insulting” Italy by suggesting the country should back a generous Brexit deal for the UK to avoid losing sales of its prosecco sparkling wine.
Italian economic development minister Carlo Calenda said Mr Johnson’s approach to EU withdrawal appeared to be based on “wishful thinking”.
And he said it was “unacceptable” that there was still confusion over Britain’s strategy, almost five months after the referendum vote to quit the EU.
Describing talks with the Foreign Secretary about Britain’s preferred Brexit outcome, Mr Calenda said: “His idea is, ‘We want to have access to the common market without giving you access in terms of free circulation of people’, and I think this is wishful thinking.
“His answer was, ‘OK, but you are selling a lot of what we call prosecco in the UK .. and you will allow us to do this because you don’t want to lose prosecco exports’.
“I said, ‘Maybe we’re going to lose some prosecco, you’re going to lose some fish and chips exports. The difference is I’m going to lose (exports) to one country, you to 27’.
“Putting things on this level is a bit insulting.”
Urging the UK to put its cards on the table and negotiate, Mr Calenda added: “My perception is that there is a lot of confusion and this is still an issue of internal political debate of the UK, which to be honest is not acceptable.
“Somebody needs to tell us something, and it needs to be something that makes sense. You can’t say that it’s sensible to say we want access to the single market but no free circulation of people. It’s obvious that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.”