Britain talking about Brexit too much, moans Liam Fox

PUBLISHED: 14:21 21 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:31 21 August 2018

Disgraced former defence secretary Liam Fox

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International trade secretary Liam Fox has complained about the focus on Britain's departure from the EU, saying people are talking about "Brexit and Brexit and Brexit".

The disgraced former defence secretary said the country needed to have a less "narrow bandwidth" and look at the wider global picture to boost international trade.

Fox said Britain's competitors were discussing wider global issues as he laid 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 his vision of getting more businesses into emerging markets such as China and Africa.

At an event for business leaders at the Institute of Directors in London today, 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."

Fox is one of the leading Brexiteers in the Tory party and has devoted much of his 26 years in Parliament to getting Britain out of the EU.

He is vice-president of the hardline Conservatives for Britain pressure group, formed in 2015 and described as the "new bastards" in reference to the Maastricht rebels who tormented Sir John Major's premiership.

He today outlined the 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 £620bn last year, accounting for 30% of UK GDP.

Fox said it was "not obtainable" for Britain to rise from 30% to the 47% figure enjoyed by Germany, who remains in the EU.

He insisted 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 said: "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 said 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.

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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