International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said that “[a]s a newly independent WTO member outside the EU, [the UK] will continue to fight for trade liberalisation“.
Fox delivered a speech at the Manchester Town Hall on 29 September 2016 championing the case for free trade. He said that his message is that “free trade has, and will continue to, transform the world for the better, and the UK has a golden opportunity to forge a new role for ourselves in the world, one which puts the British people first.”
Fox suggested that the UK would seek to build on the multilateral trade agreements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where he said that progress has stalled. The International Trade Secretary said that “the UK must be ready to look to more bespoke plurilateral and bilateral agreements to ensure that the global marketplace remains fair and free“. In signalling his intent for the UK to take up an independent place at the WTO and enter into deals with countries across the world, Fox implied that the UK would not remain in a Customs Union with the EU, which imposes a common external tariff and prevents those in the Customs Union from striking free trade agreements with third countries.
Fox also suggested that the UK would continue to reduce tariffs. After delivering the speech Fox was asked whether he was concerned about tariffs being put in place when the UK leaves the EU. He replied: “Who does it harm more if we end up in a new tariff environment? “Does it harm more those who sell more to the UK, or the UK? It’s in everybody’s interests that, as we move forward, that we have at least as free a trading environment as we have today.”
Fox was positive about Britain’s future after leaving the European Union, stating that “[w]e are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe and we are ready to take our place in an open, liberal and competitive globalised trading environment“.
The full text of Fox’s speech can be found here.