Brexit

Too much Brexit talk, says Liam Fox

Liam Fox said Britain's competitors were discussing wider global issues
David Wilcock and Richard Wheeler, Press Association

Liam Fox has bemoaned the UK's focus on Brexit, saying the country needs to have a less "narrow bandwidth" and look at the wider global picture to boost international trade.

The International Trade Secretary said Britain's competitors were discussing wider global issues, as he set out a plan to make Britain a "21st century exporting superpower".

He said that Brexit "isn't the only issue that is out there" as he outlined a vision of getting more businesses of all sizes to tap into emerging markets, including China and Africa.

At an event for business leaders at the Institute of Directors in London today, Dr Fox said that the UK's competitors were planning for up to 15 years into the future and he wanted the UK to "widen our horizons, to lengthen our timeframes".

He said: "It's really important that we don't have such a narrow bandwidth that we only think about Brexit.

"It's really interesting when I go to China, when I go to other parts of the world, they talk about the global economy, they talk about tariffs, talk about the United States and China, they talk about the WTO (World Trade Organisation).

"And in the UK we talk about Brexit and Brexit and Brexit. It is an important issue, but it isn't the only issue that is out there in terms of global trade."

The International Trade Secretary outlined the British government's desire to increase exports as a proportion of UK GDP to 35% as it seeks to encourage more businesses to sell goods and services overseas.

Official figures released in June showed exports of UK goods and services hit a record £620 billion last year, accounting for 30% of UK GDP.

Dr Fox said it was "not obtainable" for Britain to rise from 30% to the 47% figure enjoyed by Germany.

He said Brexit did not mean Britain would "pull up the drawbridge" but instead would be able to "embrace the opportunities that the changing pattern of global trade presents".

He added: "We must raise our ambitions, widen our horizons and expand our timescales.

"Europe is, and will, continue to be an important market for our goods and services, but there is a world beyond Europe and a time beyond Brexit."

Dr Fox added that China, where he will meet political leaders later this week, is expected to have 220 cities with a population of more than a million by 2030, compared with 35 such urban centres in Europe.

Accountancy firm PwC has predicted there will be 1.1 billion middle class Africans by 2060, he added.

The Export Strategy includes measures to:

  • Encourage and inspire more businesses to export, including an "increased focus on amplifying the voice of existing exporters to inspire other businesses and facilitating peer-to-peer learning".
  • Giving businesses information, advice and practical assistance on exporting.
  • Connecting UK businesses to overseas buyers, markets and each other.
  • Putting "finance at the heart of our offer".

European Commission deputy chief spokesman Alexander Winterstein, asked whether it would be easier to turn a country into an exporting superpower inside or outside the EU, told reporters in Brussels: "I will not enter into hypotheticals or speculate - you know very well that the European Union is an exporting superpower, and we're very proud of that."

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