International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has called on British businesses to realise that the "world doesn’t owe us a living".
Dr Fox made the statement after controversially telling a meeting of Conservative MPs that UK businesses are "growing fat and lazy" and are ill-prepared to make international deals post-Brexit.
He also criticised those who condemned his earlier remarks, made in a speech to the Thatcherite campaign group Conservative Way Forward at the start of September, saying that if politicians are unable to make spontaneous comments, the press and public discourse "will be poorer for it".
Speaking to The Spectator, Dr Fox said: "As a country, we have become too easy with the idea that the world owes us a living.
"The world doesn’t owe us a living. And we’ve just now got to probe all the areas where we could be making changes."
One of three Eurosceptics heavily involved with Brexit, Dr Fox said exports were failing to realise their full potential.
He added: "Government, the financial sector, culture, all of them will have to play a part.
"Because one thing’s for sure, we can’t continue with the trajectory we’ve got now, falling behind with exports as a proportion of our GDP."
The former Defence Secretary had told Conservative Way Forward: "We have become too lazy, and too fat on our successes in previous generations.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
"And when I look at a country built on free trade, as an outward-looking, forward-looking nation, and I look today at the proportion of British businesses that export beyond our border – what is it? 80 per cent? 60 per cent? 11 per cent."
In response to the controversy, No 10 pushed for a more "positive response" to helping business leaders overcome trade obstacles.
A spokesperson said: "This Government is clear that there are opportunities ahead.
"We should be approaching that in a positive manner and seizing them."