Sir Vince Cable has accused the government of "dragging its heels" in the fight against tax avoidance, after the European Union took the first step towards naming and shaming some British overseas territories in a tax haven blacklist.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats argued Theresa May and David Cameron, under whom he served as business secretary between 2010 and 2015, had not been strong enough in terms of dealing with tax avoidance.

"Some Caribbean islands in particular were operating to very poor standards, sometimes to the cost of British government," the former business secretary said.

"When we brought in the register, David Cameron himself got the overseas territories to come to the UK to try to persuade them to follow the British model, but they didn't and nothing was done to enforce it."

Last month, Brussels wrote to 41 countries to inform them they would be blacklisted unless they vowed to change their tax rules and a final blacklist is due to be published on 5 December.

British ministers had repeatedly tried to prevent the EU from sending letters to the governments of 12 British overseas territories.

Despite protests from the government, however, the letters were eventually sent out after members states' experts sitting on a European council code of conduct group ruled in favour of the proposal.

Britain has repeatedly argued the likes of Bermuda, the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands should not be named and shamed for having a 0% corporate tax rate.

"The list should be finalised next month," a commission official was quoted as saying by the Guardian. "Member states are working to deliver the first EU blacklist in December, as planned based on the process launched by the commission in January 2016.

"The vast majority of non-EU jurisdictions that have been contacted by the EU during the screening process have engaged in dialogue with us on the possible issues identified. This is encouraging.

"However, we can confirm that member states in the code of conduct group have written to a number of jurisdictions regarding deficiencies that were identified during the screening phase."

A spokesman for the British government said: "The UK is at the forefront of tackling avoidance and ensuring tax transparency. We support the development of a blacklist and are working with our European partners. Our goal is to finalise a common EU blacklist by the end of 2017."