EXCL Liam Fox accuses British firms of not wanting to do business abroad

Posted On: 
23rd November 2017

Liam Fox has accused British companies of not wanting to export their goods around the globe.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox
Credit: 
Paul Heartfield

In an outspoken attack, the International Trade Secretary said the reluctance of some firms to do business with foreign companies was hampering his efforts to boost the economy.

Dr Fox's broadside, in an interview with the House magazine, echoes his claim last year that Britain has "become too lazy and too fat", and that bosses prefer playing golf on Friday afternoons to working.

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He said: "From Britain’s point of view, our main advantage doesn’t lie in getting more trade deals, it lies in getting more trade. So, we need to do an awful lot better with the markets that we already have access to globally, our trading performance still needs to improve, notwithstanding a more than 13% increase in trade in the last year.

"We’re still way behind where our economy needs to be. So, we need to think about how we can make our economy export ready, and more investment ready as well, and how we get more of our companies to think about exporting overseas.

"I can agree as many trade agreements as I like, but if British business doesn’t want to export, then that doesn’t do us any good."

Elsewhere in the interview, Dr Fox also accused the media of making stories up to undermine Brexit.

He specifically dismissed a report in the Mail on Sunday that claimed David Davis was contemplating quitting over a memo sent by Michael Gove and Boris Johnson to Theresa May over the Governent's approach to Brexit.

“I don’t believe it for a minute. I really don’t,” he said. “I understand that the press have their pages to fill. And I also understand that when people don’t know things they will make them up.”

When asked whether he was frustrated with the media’s coverage of Brexit, he replied: “The media are not party to our internal discussions. And so, a lot of stuff gets made up. But you know, that’s what we get.

“My greater frustration is the lack of explanation given to the public on things like the trade issues, actually explaining where the country is. Because whether or not we had decided to leave the EU, we would have had to up our trade. We would really have had to improve our export performance. Notwithstanding our very good performance of the past year, we are still exporting a smaller share of our GDP than most of our EU partners…

“For a country that was once synonymous with global free trade, we have a lot of ground to make up.

“On the positive side, with a modest push we’ve seen that big increase in one year, which suggests to me there’s a lot of slack in our exporting capabilities still.

“Getting out to our businesses and saying, ‘here are the changes we’re making, here are the good things that are happening, here are the things you can take advantage of’, is what I would like to see, rather than personality-based stories.”

However, Dr Fox also appeared to take a swipe at Mr Johnson and Mr Gove when he said: “We’ve got serious discussions to have about what’s the content of our negotiations and what are the parameters we’re willing to operate within. I think we’d all be very wise to do that behind closed doors.”