Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, has said that he is intending to support Jeremy Hunt’s bid to become leader of the Conservative Party. Fox, who stood in the 2005 and 2016 leadership contests, decided not to stand in the bid to replace Theresa May, the current leader and Prime Minister.
Hunt acknowledged Fox’s support, posting on Twitter:
“Privilege to work with @LiamFox in Cabinet for many of the last nine years and very honoured by his support. He is an outstanding trade secretary. Looking forward to working with him to get a better Brexit deal and make the most of new trading opportunities across the globe.”
Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, has attacked the Government in which he serves for failing to honour the referendum result. Fox said voters would be “betrayed” if Theresa May, the Prime Minister, fails to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons.
The Government unexpectedly scrapped the proposed date of leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019, with no confirmation on when the new departure date would be.
Fox, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, said:
“A lot of people voted in the referendum who had not voted in general elections or other elections in recent years and felt that this was one time when their vote genuinely would count because we were outside the constituency system. I think that those people will feel very betrayed if we don’t deliver it.”
Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Departing the European Union, said that Labour wouldn’t be backing the withdrawal programme, adding on the same radio programme:
“We’ve always said the problem with the deal is it’s blind, it’s so thin. Take the political declaration off and it’s completely blind. You’ve no idea what you’re really voting for. Taking the political declaration off makes a bad situation worse. It’s the blindest of blind Brexits. Now the prime minister has said she is going to be stepping down, so the political declaration, the future relationship, is going to be determined in a Tory leadership exercise, because even if this prime minister gave us assurances about what she’s going to do in the future, they don’t mean anything any more.”
Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for Trade, has attacked Sir Martin Donnelly, the former Permanent Secretary at the same department, following the former civil servant’s concerns over leaving the customs union. Fox, who made his own speech today, said that it wants to do free trade deals with other countries.
Donnelly, who has expressed concerns before about leaving the single market, said that the EU market was a substantial one and that leaving the customs union was “rather like rejecting a three course meal now in favour of the promise of a packet of crisps later”.
Fox responded to Donnelly’s comments saying:
“I understand that those who have been professionally committed to those for many years would want to adhere to them. I want to think beyond where we are today, to the opportunities available for the future”.
He later added:
“It’s unsurprising that those who spend a lifetime working in the European Union see moving away from the European Union as being threatening”.
Fox had earlier said in his speech:
“We require an economic outlook that allows us to take advantage of the substantial opportunities that Europe will continue to bring but without limiting our ability to adapt to a changing and growing world beyond the European continent.
The UK is perfectly placed to partner with the economic powerhouses of the future, and they in turn are eager for the mutual prosperity that such a partnership would bring. To do this, we need the ability to exercise a fully independent trade policy. We have to maximise our overall trading opportunities for the UK and secure the prosperity of our people”.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has confirmed in a speech made today at Coventry University that the Labour Party will back the UK’s membership of a customs union. The decision means that the Conservative Party may now struggle to get their legislation through the House of Commons due to a number of MPs who support remaining in the union.
“During the transition period, Labour would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market. That means we would abide by the existing rules of both. That is so the government, businesses and workers only have to make one adjustment, from the current situation to the final terms”.
“Labour would seek a final deal that gives full access to European markets and maintains the benefits of the single market and the customs union as the Brexit Secretary, David Davis promised in the House of Commons, with no new impediments to trade and no reduction in rights, standards and protections.
We have long argued that a customs union is a viable option for the final deal. So Labour would seek to negotiate a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure that there are no tariffs with Europe and to help avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland”.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the Director General of the CBI, welcomed the decision and said that it “put jobs and living standards first by remaining in a close economic relationship with the EU”. Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, criticised the Labour leader and said “Labour’s confused policy would be bad for jobs and wages, it would leave us unable to sign up to comprehensive free trade deals, and it doesn’t respect the result of the referendum”.
Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, has said that Labour’s policy is now to support a permanent customs union treaty after Brexit. The policy is a change to their previous position where Labour opposed remaining in the customs union.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Starmer said:
“We’ve long championed being in a customs union with the EU and the benefits of that. Obviously it’s the only way realistically to get tariff-free access. It’s really important for our manufacturing base, and nobody can answer the question how you keep your commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland without a customs union”.
Referring to Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, Starmer added about the change of policy:
“Then over the summer, as you know, I laid out the position for the transitional arrangements, that we’d be in a customs union, and said then that it ought to be an option on the table. We’ve now had many weeks of discussion and unanimously we’ve agreed – we had a big meeting on Monday to develop our policy and Jeremy will announce that tomorrow”.
On the same programme Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, denied that the Government were delaying legislation because they feared defeat on the customs union issue, but added:
“We want to persuade our colleagues of the merits of our argument before we take the Bill forward”.
“It is hard to think of a more black and white case of breaking the ministerial code. It is time the secretary of state either faces a Cabinet Office investigation or does the decent thing and just resigns”.
Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, said in a statement:
“Priti Patel also had meetings with a number of charities and I find it utterly unsurprising that the international aid secretary would want to talk to charities while she’s on holiday in a particular area about whether or not we can use the British aid budget to diminish the humanitarian problems there”.
Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, has warned that the Government is heading for no deal with the EU over Brexit. Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, said though that he felt that a deal could be reached with enough political will.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Thornberry said:
“I think what we may be seeing is the Europeans trying to make it clear that it is not their fault that there are these difficulties – the intransigence does not come from their side, it comes from Theresa May’s side. And in the end I think the reality is the intransigence is on Theresa May’s side, because she doesn’t have the strength or the authority to be able to control her backbenchers, let alone her cabinet. And I think we are heading for no deal, and I think that that is a serious threat to Britain and it is not in Britain’s interests for that to happen”.
Fox said on Peston on Sunday when asked if he regretted saying that a trade deal would be easy:
“No I don’t. The point I was making was that it is unique because, as I said, in most trade deals you’re trying to reduce a distance but in the European Union trading agreement we are already at the point where we have no tariffs and we have complete regulatory equivalence. That has never happened before. I don’t think they are difficult in terms of the trade law or the trade negotiations themselves. The difficulty is the politics”.
Crawford Falconer, the recently appointed Chief Trade Negotiation Adviser at the Department for International Trade, has started in his new role. Falconer, who was appointed in June 2017, was previously the Professor of Global Value Chains and Trade at Lincoln University and is a former New Zealand Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation.
Falconer said of his appointment:
“As the UK prepares to leave the EU we have a huge opportunity to be a world innovator, striking trade deals outside of Europe, and to be an ambassador for free trade across the world.
With 90% of new trade to come from outside the EU in the next decades, this is an immensely exciting time to join the Department, and I look forward to preparing for the important negotiations ahead”.
Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, said:
“Crawford Falconer brings a wealth of international trade expertise to our international economic department, ensuring that as we leave the EU, the UK will be at the forefront of global free trade and driving the case for international openness. His direct experience in global trade will prove invaluable as we build our future trading arrangements with the rest of the world”.
David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, has confirmed that Liam Fox and Philip Hammond did not seek his agreement for their joint statement on Brexit. Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, and Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had issued a joint statement on Brexit in an attempt to unite the party.
Davis said in Edinburgh that he was not told about the joint statement and accepted that there were differences of opinion in the Cabinet. Davis was speaking at a public event which was chaired by Alex Salmond, the former First Scottish Minister.
In a joint article in the Sunday Telegraph, Fox and Hammond had written:
“We are both clear that during this period the UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union and will be a ‘third-country’ not party to EU treaties”.