David Davis has conceded the UK’s Brexit agreement “will probably favour the EU”.
The cabinet minister told the House of Lords European Union select committee on Tuesday that any withdrawal agreement would benefit the EU “in terms of the things like money and so on.”
But he said he hoped the future relationship “will favour both sides and will be important to both of us”.
Davis will travel to Brussels to meet the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, next Friday to resume talks.
He said the government was keen to speed up the negotiation process, but it had been unable to secure an earlier date to meet EU officials.
“We want to get on with the process – we are not holding up the process,” he told the committee.
“I don’t want to score any points – it’s just a practical fact. I have invited Barnier to come to London tomorrow but he couldn’t do it – he had a prior engagement.
“We offered them the beginning of next week – they couldn’t do it. So it’s the latter part of next week when it will be when the negotiators engage. And I’ll be out there on Friday.”
Davis said talks were currently centred around four key areas – citizens’ rights, Northern Ireland, money and “separation issues”.
He said he regarded citizens’ rights as arguably the most important, but that discussions around Northern Ireland – on preventing a hard border between it and and the Republic of Ireland – had “reached a point where we can’t much advance”.
Politicians in the Republic of Ireland have already warned a seamless border post-Brexit may not be achievable.
Davis also told the committee the UK would strive to secure a trading arrangement with the EU for as long as possible.
“I am not one of those people who thinks no deal is the best deal,” he said.
“We are seeking a good deal and ‘a deep and special partnership’, to use the prime minister’s words, and we will be trying to do that right to the end.”
The Brexit secretary said he believed EU member states and their regional governments were keen to see “a good deal for both sides”, but that there was “a fundamental flaw” in terms of the negotiation process because of the sheer number of representatives involved.
“I have always said the most likely outcome is a free trade agreement,” he added.
“But any trade deal has to satisfy all 28 member states. If you are going out to buy something for 28 people, it’s lot harder than going out to buy something for one person.”