Trade deals are 'a distraction' from real benefits of Brexit - Jacob Rees-Mogg
Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has dismissed the importance of forging new trade deals, calling them a "distraction" from the main benefits of leaving the EU.
The Tory backbencher, who heads up the eurosceptic European Research Group of MPs, said the most important aspect of leaving the bloc was removing tariffs on imported goods such as clothing and food.
Clothing from outside the EU currently attracts a tariff of 11.8%, while footwear is slightly lower at 11.4%.
The North East Somerset MP said the idea trade deals would make a big contribution to post-Brexit economic success was a "red herring", pointing out that the UK's biggest single trading partner is the United States, with whom we do not have a trade deal.
The comments may come as a surprise to Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who has been jetting around the world over the last 18 months laying the groundwork for post-Brexit deals with non-EU countries.
"I think the trade deal issue is a bit of a red herring. Our biggest individual national trading partner is the US, with whom we have no trade deal," he told the Daily Politics.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who is a firm favourite among the Tory grassroots, argued the Government should pursue a unilateral free trade policy, similar to countries such as Singapore and Australia.
"Can I get back to why trade deals are a distraction, because I think this is important. The real benefit we get is from lifting tariffs on goods that come into this country and non-tariff barriers. That makes the UK more competitive, it makes goods for consumers cheaper," he said.
"Unilateral free trade has worked in every country that has tried it, historically. Trade deals are an add-on benefit and if you open up your markets you then go to people and say 'we've opened up our market, do you want to open up yours?' that then helps trade even further.
"But the benefits you get by reducing your input costs and the costs of consumption of voters across the country is very economically powerful. "