Philip Hammond has told eurocrats Britain will obey EU trade laws
The Chancellor said that the UK was "very mindful of our obligations" whilst still a member state as he arrived for a meeting of EU finance ministers in the Belgian capital this morning.
Mr Hammond's remarks will be seen as an attempt to quell growing consternation amongst eurocrats about Britain's open courtship of trade deals as it seeks to build its post-Brexit future.
But they are in stark contrast to the increasingly ebullient language emerging from other Government departments, who have been buoyed by Brussels' total inaction on the issue.
Yesterday EU officials looked on seemingly helpless as South Africa vowed to strike a deal with Britain before it leaves the bloc, something which is strictly against EU rules.
Mr Hammond made the remarks ahead of a meeting of EU finance ministers
Theresa May is in the US drumming up support for a UK-US trade deal
The EU Commission's top spokesman hinted that Brussels will not look to punish the UK over the matter, effectively providing Whitehall with a green light to start talks.
Meanwhile Theresa May is in the US openly drumming up the prospect of a trade pact during a meeting with new President Donald Trump, who has vowed to seal a deal as soon as possible.
But arriving at the EU's Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) today, Mr Hammond looked to strike a less triumphalist tone and ease the fears of his fellow ministers.
We're very mindful of our obligations under the treaty and we will follow them precisely
UK Chancellor Philip Hammond
He said: Britain remains a fully engaged member of the European Union. We will continue to take a full part and we will continue to abide by the rules and the regulations and the laws of the EU for so long as we are members.
"Of course we want to strengthen our trade ties with the very many trade partners we have around the world, but we're very mindful of our obligations under the treaty and we will follow them precisely."
The Remain backing Chancellor's move to play down the prospect of Britain striking quick trade deals will reassure European leaders who fear early UK success on the world stage could further destabilise the EU.
Theresa May's 12 point Brexit plan
Mon, January 16, 2017
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Continued cooperation with the EU to tackle terrorism and international crime.
EU chiefs are at pains to point out to their electorates that Britain will be worse off outside the bloc than in it, an argument which would be undermined if the UK signs a series of high profile pacts.
But Mr Hammond's remarks will anger some eurosceptics, who argue that Britain should loosen ties with Europe swiftly and seek new relationships with economic superpowers across the globe.
Trade secretary Liam Fox, a prominent Brexiteer, has been busy beating the drum for a free and open UK economy, jetting around the world to discuss the possibility of trade deals with top economies.