Liam Fox: UK business is ‘too lazy and fat’
Liam Fox has launched an outspoken attack on British business - accusing it of becoming “too lazy and too fat” as it coasts on “the successes of previous generations”.
The International Trade Secretary's extraordinary outburst came at a Conservative Way Forward event, according to The Times.
He also accused UK businessmen of hitting the golf course on a Friday afternoon, when they should be making money.
Downing Street last night moved quickly to distance itself from Dr Fox, insisting he had been expressing a personal opinion.
Dr Fox, who only returned to the Cabinet when Theresa May became Prime Minister, told the Tory event: “This country is not the free- trading nation that it once was. We have become too lazy, and too fat on our successes in previous generations.
“What is the point of us reshaping global trade, what is the point of us going out and looking for new markets for the United Kingdom, if we don’t have the exporters to fill those markets?”
He also suggested companies were not more industrious could face sanctions.
“If you want to share in the prosperity of our country, you have a duty to contribute to the prosperity of our country,” he said.
Dr Fox, who was a GP before he entered parliament, added: “We’ve got to change the culture in our country. People have got to stop thinking about exporting as an opportunity and start thinking about it as a duty — companies who could be contributing to our national prosperity but choose not to because it might be too difficult or too time-consuming or because they can’t play golf on a Friday afternoon.”
He warned the business sector the trade department was unlikely to use import tariffs to protect any part of the UK economy.
“We must turn our backs on [those] that tell us it’s OK, you can protect bits of your industry, bits of your economy and no one will notice,” he said. “It is untrue. Protectionism has always ended in tears. We must be unreconstructed, unapologetic free traders.”
Many companies have privately expressed their concerns over Dr Fox’s “hard Brexit” beliefs, which they feel would damage the UK’s ability to trade.
Pat McFadden from the Open Britain campaign said: For the second time in a week Downing Street, has had to say a Brexit Minister doesn't speak for the Government.
“If the Government doesn't confirm it supports membership of the Single Market it won't serve British business, but that is hardly surprising if ministers can't even speak up for British business.
“It is hard to see why the Government's trade minister is attacking British business when he is supposed to be promoting the UK as a great place to do business.”
The row comes just days after No 10 was forced to slap down Brexit Secretary David Davis after he claimed it was "very improbable" that Britian would remain a member of the EU single market.