Fox insists Britain can maintain free trade with EU and still control its borders
LIAM Fox has insisted Britain can maintain free trade with the European Union and control over immigration after Brexit despite fresh warnings that it would be “impossible”.
The international trade secretary said trade with the EU could be “at least as free” as it was now, while former cabinet minister Oliver Letwin insisted Britain should “have its cake and eat it”.
EU leaders have repeatedly insisted access to the free trade zone is dependent on allowing the free movement of EU citizens, seen as unpalatable by Prime Minister Theresa May and raising the prospect of a “hard Brexit” outwith the European single market.
Dr Fox hinted the UK Government could be leaning towards such a move, saying Britain would become an independent member of the World Trade Organisation post-Brexit and comply with its tariffs and rules.
He said the UK would then work with the WTO on “taking an axe to red tape across borders,” adding: “The UK is a full and founding member of the WTO, though we have chosen to be represented by the EU in recent years.
“As we establish our independent position post-Brexit, we will carry the standard of free and open trade as a badge of honour.”
But despite his suggestion of what is seen as a “hard Brexit”, Dr Fox insisted it was in the interests of EU countries to offer the UK free and open trade after it leaves the union.
Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister and now the Liberal Democrats’ EU spokesman, described Dr Fox’s speech as “delusional” and urged him to make public the economic impact of leaving the single market.
For the SNP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said: “Liam Fox’s ideological obsession with Brexit is blinding him to the facts. The problem is that the more he speaks the less we know about the UK Government’s detailed plans for our trading future with Europe.”
She added: “Leaving the European single market and customs union would be a blow to Scotland’s economy, and rather than freeing up businesses, as he suggests, it would increase the red tape required of Scotland’s exporters.”