Only a lack of political will and imagination will stop Britain forging a new, mutually beneficial relationship with the European Union, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox said today.

Speaking as the European Parliament debated the future EU/UK deal, Mr Fox said it was overwhelmingly in the interests of both sides to have the freest trade and the closest possible security relationship.

Although significant differences remain, he believes progress can be made by listening to each other, building on what has already been agreed and thinking creatively. But he stressed it was not enough to simply look to replicate existing trade deals.

Mr Fox said: "Every deal the EU has ever struck has been different and unique. Arrangements with Switzerland, Norway and South Korea are all bespoke.  There was no Canada before Canada, no Singapore before Singapore."

The European Parliament must approve the final EU/UK agreement and Mr Fox said voters would judge MEPs not on whether they followed every rule and protocol but on whether they "had the common sense to maintain a workable relationship with the world's sixth largest economy."

He concluded: "I have confidence that an innovative solution can be found. To paraphrase the Prime Minister; we both know what we want, we have a shared interest in getting this right, so let's get on with it."