Ashton has been linked with a switch to Premiership Champions Saracens when his contract ends later this year and Northampton boss Jim Mallinder has now admitted his club appear powerless to stop the 24-year-old moving on.
"There's not an offer on the table, because his agent doesn't want to talk to us," said Mallinder.
"We've not had discussions and I think his mind is elsewhere. It's not a question of offering him a deal because we haven't had any negotiations. If he wanted to stay, we'd talk to him.
"We have said all along that we want to keep him, but his agent and Chris decide where he wants to play.
"All we can say is we want to keep him but we won't hold him back because we want players who want to play for Northampton, it is as simple as that."
Ashton joined Saints from Wigan Warriors in 2007 and has since become one of the hottest properties in the European game.
His try ratio of 15 scores in 18 Tests for England speaks for itself and it is no surprise that he is courting interest away from Franklin's Gardens.
But although Mallinder admits losing Ashton would be a big blow to last season's beaten Heineken Cup Finalists, he insists Saints will move forward regardless.
"Sometimes I don't know about loyalty in professional rugby," added Mallinder.
"If any player wants to go, for whatever reason, whether that's moving to London, or a massive financial offer, we're not going to stand in their way. We'll shake their hand and we'll get players who want to play for Northampton.
"No player is bigger than the team or the squad. We have a lot of good young players coming through and there are a lot of other good young players out there who want to come to Saints and play for us.
"We are not disturbed by it. We will certainly not go out and break the bank trying to keep one player - we can't afford to do that."