Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Liam Fox is the Brexit bus of trade deals

Please send your letters to

Thursday 08 February 2018 16:40 GMT
Liam Fox penned an article for The Independent yesterday
Liam Fox penned an article for The Independent yesterday (Getty)

Liam Fox talks about irony in the calls by Caroline Lucas and War on Want. The irony is within his own claims. The EU has not stopped the UK trading with anyone. We have been free, for all of the 40 years he refers to as restrained by the EU, to trade with whomever we like.

The question he did not address, and no Brexiteer has yet, is “why not?” Recent data has shown that increasing global wealth is benefiting an already rich elite and not the poor. These people he suggests we will “help” will be either in poor conditions at least as bad as the workshops of Bangladesh, or producing goods that will be sold to us at inflated prices that remove them from their indigenous markets and needs.

Yes, we should trade with those countries. However, we should do it on terms such as required by the EU and which I expect the EU to require of all trading partners – terms that include our safety and health as well as the freedom and fairness of and to the supply country. Those are the terms we should require. The reason Fox and his chums want so-called free trade is to line their pockets at the cost of others.

I prefer decency to his self-interested approach and attempting to tarnish the EU for his and our Government’s failure to trade with all these markets. Or, is it that they do not really exist – just like Boris Johnson’s £350m for the NHS? Crafty Fox.

Michael Mann

I hoped the article by Liam Fox might provide some detail on how we shall strike superior new trade deals once outside the EU, while not jeopardising the business base that we have.

Instead he rants about free trade in an incoherent attack on his political opponents (whom I shall leave to defend themselves). While confusing democracy with an “independent” trading status, he also overlooks one of many inconvenient facts for those on his side of the argument: that Germany occupied until within the last 10 years or so the top spot in the world for manufactured exports, while being a member of the EU. They have been successful in China; doing these things and being in the EU are not mutually exclusive. Similarly, the US is our biggest individual market.

The UK’s best route to successful free trade agreements with these large markets surely has to be by using the combined negotiating power represented by a wealthy market of 500 million people.

Fox breezily assumes we shall be able to maintain, on leaving the EU, the FTAs from which we currently benefit as EU members. If this is the case, we should be told how and when. Real-world experience tends to suggest that counterparties will consider taking the opportunity to renegotiate. We should also be told how many of these there are and who with. I believe there are around fifty – not a bad EU base on which to build.

Vague mention of a “trade remedies authority” raises more questions than it answers. If, as it seems, this would be a unilaterally established body, where would that leave the UK in respect of our membership of the World Trade Organisation, whose rules we would still presumably be respecting?

Finally, Fox seeks to take the reader back into a mythical dreamscape – in which presumably the Suez crisis didn’t happen and British commerce rules the waves. However, in his world of 40 years ago, British car manufacturing was a disaster zone, whereas it thrives in today’s just-in-time, customs union and single market-facilitated world. That this and much else besides is now placed in jeopardy by a combination of misguided ideology and extremely muddled thinking should make everyone pay attention.

Chris Burn
London SW17

I was at the War on Want meeting in Shoreditch on Monday night and I can assure Liam Fox that I have no issue with trade deals as such as long as they are fair to everyone. To negotiate deals that may include the sale of public services, or to allow multinationals to sue our Government, without telling the electorate, is undemocratic.

If Liam Fox is so sure of the benefits of the deals he is currently in talks over, presumably he has no problem with telling the public exactly what is in those deals, and allow the deals to be properly and thoroughly scrutinised by Parliament, who are our democratically elected representatives.

Lynn Lambert

Democracy is being misunderstood

Stephie McCallum (“Remainers should step aside”, Letters) does not seem to understand democracy or the sovereignty of Parliament or the role of MPs. Just because there is an election does not mean that democracy (the participation of people in the governance of the nation) ceases.

Does she imagine that if Remainers had won the referendum by a tiny majority that Farage, Ukip, Tory and Labour Brexiteers would have stopped arguing for a change in our relationship with Europe? In a democracy they would have a perfect right to continue to argue their case.

Does she imagine that when we have an election, one lot win, so the others just give up? That way, next stop “elective dictatorship”, as Lord Hailsham, a former Tory Lord Chancellor, called it.

Democracy is a process, not an outcome.

John Daintith
Chew Magna

Stephie McCullum in yesterday’s edition claims that Remainers should have no part in any future votes on Brexit. The democratic will, she says, has been expressed and we should shut up and accept the outcome.

After a general election which the party I support has lost, am I supposed to cease campaigning for the causes and policies I espouse for five years, until I get another chance at the ballot box? Democracy surely demands an active and vigorous opposition, holding the Government to account.

She’s right, however, to say that the referendum was like any other election – so those on the losing side have every right to keep arguing their case as long as it takes.

Democracy deserves nothing less.

Derek Watts

Hurrah for the Tory mutineer!

It was very welcome to see the smiling face of Stephen Hammond (Tory “mutineer” to table amendment to give MPs vote on single market), which, on possibly the coldest morning this winter to date, was enough to warm the cockles of your heart.

Churchillian nostalgia aside, one must applaud his efforts to secure a “Norway option”, which currently is – bar remaining – one of the only sensible solutions to this shambles.

Even the somewhat inept Theresa May must see that the arithmetic in the House is against her. This, then, is the time to stop grandiose statements that go nowhere, grasp the nettle, and govern for the good of everyone – not just hardline Brexiteers.

Robert Boston

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in