- International Trade Secretary suffers backlash after claiming that British businesses are not putting enough effort into exporting their products overseas.
- Liam Fox claims businesses are making his job harder because they don’t “want to export” their products.
- Cobra beer chief Lord Bilimoria tells Business Insider that Fox is “utterly unfit for the office”.
- Prime Minister Theresa May slaps down Fox.
LONDON – One of Britain’s best-known entrepreneurs has told Business Insider that Liam Fox is “utterly unfit” to be in office, after the International Trade Secretary accused British business of not putting in enough effort into exporting their products overseas.
Lord Bilimoria, best known as the co-founder of Cobra beer, was responding to Fox’s claim that British businesses are making his job harder because they don’t want to export their goods.
“I can agree as many trade agreements as I like, but if British business doesn’t want to export, then that doesn’t do us any good,” Fox told House Magazine this week.
Fox has previously claimed that many business people are “too fat and too lazy” and spend too much time playing golf, rather than doing their jobs.
Bilimoria told BI on Friday that Fox’s comments amounted to an “insult” to British business people across the board and show he is “completely unsuited” for the office.
“He is completely unsuited and shown himself to be quite frankly utterly unfit for this office. It’s an insult to business,” the life peer said.
“When he made the remarks he did last year I along with several other leaders were furious. Who on Earth was he to call us lazy? He doesn’t have a clue how hard it is to start a business from scratch, to grow it, to raise finance and to export. It is not easy.
“For him to say that was utterly shocking.”
Bilimoria was keen to stress that he “really appreciates” the work done by the Trade Department as a whole and praised UK commissioners for their “helpful” and “fabulous” work helping British business on the world stage.
The problem, Bilimoria claimed, is Fox’s leadership of the department.
“What Fox said shows that he completely doesn’t understand business and international trade,” he explained.
“The first thing is that across the board in business nobody has any respect for Liam Fox. Nobody takes him seriously. That’s a fact. We do not expect anything from him, but we don’t want him to insult us in this way either.
“At Cobra I’ve got exporting experience covering a quarter of a century and he’s somebody who has never run a business in his life trying to say I’m not working hard enough. He’s saying we are not working hard enough because he can’t sign trade deals.”
Bilimoria, who has previously said that he voted for Remain in the EU referendum, added: “50% of our trade is with the EU. Our biggest export markets are within the EU. On top of that, almost 20% of our trade is with 50 countries which have free trade agreements with the EU, including Japan.
“So, is Liam Fox trying to tell business and exporters like me that I want to sacrifice 70% of our trade worldwide to try and go after the 30%? They are in absolute dreamland – and business understands this.”
“When Fox makes comments like this it doesn’t surprise me, but it’s why we can’t take him seriously. We don’t like being insulted by someone who hasn’t a clue about business.”
Prime Minister Theresa May today slapped down Fox for his remarks, with her spokesperson saying: “The UK has a good record for exports.”
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