- The International Trade Secretary had promised to immediately roll over all of Britain’s free trade deals it has with non-EU countries as part of its EU membership.
- Liam Fox told Conservative activists: “All these faint hearts saying we cannot do it – it’s absolute rubbish.”
- However, officials in the UK government reportedly say none of the 40 trade deals are on course to be signed immediately after Britain leaves.
- Fox also promised that a Brexit free trade deal with the EU would be the “easiest in human history.”
LONDON – Liam Fox will fail to sign any of the 40 free trade deals he promised for “the second after” Brexit, in time, according to officials inside the UK government.
The International Trade Secretary promised that Britain would immediately roll over all of the 40 free trade deals it has with non-EU countries as part of its membership.
“We’re going to replicate the 40 EU free trade agreements that exist before we leave the European Union so we’ve got no disruption of trade,” Business Insider revealed Fox told a Conservative party fringe event in Manchester back in 2017.
We’ll have up to 40 ready for one second after midnight in March 2019
“I hear people saying ‘oh we won’t have any [free trade agreements] before we leave’. Well, believe me, we’ll have up to 40 ready for one second after midnight in March 2019,” he told cheering Conservative activists.
The Trade Secretary added that “All these faint hearts saying we cannot do it – it’s absolute rubbish.”
However, one government official who has seen how talks are progressing told the Financial Times that Fox was not on course to be able to roll over the 40 deals he promised in time.
“Almost none of them are ready to go now and none will be ready to go by March,” the official told the paper.
An International Trade Department spokesperson told the FT: “We don’t comment on leaks,” with another official insisting that many of the agreements “are at an advanced stage”.
“Our priority is to ensure there is no disruption to our global trading relationships, with more DIT staff allocated to no deal planning in recent weeks, and we encourage businesses to continue to plan for a range of scenarios,” an International Trade official said.
Fox has a record of making big promises on the progress of Brexit. At the start of Brexit negotiations in 2017, he promised that a new Brexit trade deal with the EU would be “the easiest in human history” to sign.