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Brexit: Liam Fox says securing a UK-EU free trade deal will be 'one of the easiest in human history'

The International Trade Secretary also insisted Britain could 'survive' without a deal

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 20 July 2017 11:02 BST
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Liam Fox says securing a trade deal with eu should be 'one of the easiest in human history'

Securing a free trade deal with the European Union should be “one of the easiest in human history”, according to Cabinet minister Liam Fox, as he insisted Britain could also “survive” without a deal.

The comments from the International Trade Secretary, who will today meet with the director general of the World Trade Organisation, come as Brexit Secretary David Davis returns to Brussels to resume negotiations with his EU counterparts.

But downplaying the importance of securing a free trade deal with the bloc, Mr Fox told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Britain could “survive” if negotiations collapsed and the UK was forced to crash out.

Mr Fox added: “Well we don’t want to have no deal – it’s much better if a deal than no deal. We can of course survive with no deal and we have to go into a negotiation with those on the other side knowing that’s what we think.

“But of course we want to come to a full and comprehensive deal with the European Union. Why? Because it’s good for the people of Britain and it’s good for our economy and it’s good for the consumers and it’s good for the workers of Europe and their economy. If you think about it, the free trade agreement that we will have to come to with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history.”

“The only reason we wouldn’t come to a free and open agreement is because politics gets in the way of economics.”

His comments come just weeks after Mr Davis described Britain’s exit from the European Union as more difficult than working for the space agency NASA. “Half of my task is running a set of projects that make the NASA moon shot look quite simple,” the Brexit Secretary said in June.

When the European Parliament, for example, struck a free trade deal with Canada – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) - eight years had passed since negotiations began.

Asked about a transitional deal, Mr Fox added: “If we were to have an implementation phase between leaving the European Union and our final settlement, I don’t have a problem with that. But I do think we have to leave the EU first of all to keep faith with the voters who instructed us to do that.”

But Mr Fox refused to be drawn on whether he and the Prime Minister would still be in their post in a year’s time. “Well, I wouldn’t predict anything in the future,” he said. “In politics you never know what’s going to happen next.

“In terms of the Prime Minister, I think that the Prime Minister is likely to be there for the rest of the this Parliament. I think she has the support of her colleagues in the House of Commons. She has a mandate to be the Prime Minister. She has a working majority in the House of Commons and I don’t think there is anything to be gained by speculation about leadership."

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