Liam Fox has backtracked on comments he made about a Brexit deal being “the easiest in human history” by picking on semantics.
The staunch Eurosceptic and former international trade secretary has attempted to weasel out of prior remarks he made about EU trade deal negotiations by focusing on his use of language.
Appearing on Sky News’ Kay Burley @ Breakfast programme, the former minister was asked: “You said a Brexit deal would be the easiest in human history… that didn’t age well?”
Fox responded: “I said should be and not would be.
“The reason I said that was because we were actually starting from an unusual place in that we already had complete tariff-free trade which we would want to retain and I think that is probably where we will end up.”
He added: “Let’s face it. If we don’t get a deal then we would have to start again to get one in the future because it’s in the interests of both parties.”
This prompted Burley to ask if it were simply easier to postpone the December 31.
“I think we’ll still get an agreement and I think there is such a strong interest on both sides to get it. It’s doable if the political will is there,” the Brexiteer calmly replied.
He then suggested Britain and the EU could “get over” issues regarding state aid and fishing rights which have held up talks as he called for both sides to come to an agreement.
“The fact that we’ve not heard anything in recent days shows that the intensity of negotiations has increased,” he noted.
“There’s such a strong logic for an agreement then [sic] that is where we’ll end up.”
Pointing out the logistical difficulties of translating legal text in all 27 EU member state languages and having it ratified by all parliaments, Burley asked if the December 31 deadline was still possible.
“Yes, we should be able to do it on time,” Fox reiterated.
Responding to a clop of the interview on Twitter, Chris Turner wrote: “Of course, if we do have to start again from zero, we’ll still have to agree to the EU’s terms.”
One user described it as Fox “back-pedalling like mad,” while another pondered if the difference between “would” and “should” “makes things any less of a lie”.
A third quipped: “Ah. He said should be. That clears this entire mess up. Thanks Liam.”
@Welli69 added: “Any deal that is not as good as the one we already had is a failure.”
Meanwhile, Peter Knee noticed a peculiar map in Fox’s background. He wrote: “Notice the map behind him. Matches exactly his world view.”