Liam Fox warns that punishing Britain in post-Brexit trade deals will damage the global economy

LONDON — International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warned senior EU politicians that punishing the UK by putting up “new impediments to trade and investment in Europe” during Brexit talks will damage the global economy.

Speaking at a conference in Berlin on Wednesday, Fox told a crowd of private equity investors that regardless of Brexit, Britain still wants to play a major role in global trade, and trotted out the government’s popular line that Britain is “open for business.”

As part of his speech, Fox issued a call to the European Union’s Brexit negotiators not to act punitively during trade negotiations with the UK, saying that doing so would be “economically dangerous and not just for Europe but for the wider global economy.”

Here is the key extract from his speech at the SuperReturn International conference in Berlin.

“Let me be very frank. Any new impediments to trade and investment in Europe will not only be politically irresponsible but economically dangerous and not just for Europe but for the wider global economy. We do not act in a political vacuum and there are economic actions that have global implications.”

Since taking up the position as International Trade Secretary — alongside Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Minister, as part of a key trio of Brexiteers in government — Fox has consistently talked up the UK’s global vision for trade, despite the government’s plan to forgo its membership of the biggest single market in the world.

He reiterated that on Wednesday, telling the SuperReturn International conference that “we will not reject the values that still bind us to our European neighbours: freedom, equality, democracy, the rule of law.”

In January, Fox argued that Britain has already held “informal trade negotiations” with a dozen countries all over the world as part of the government’s recently announced plan for a new “global Britain.”

“We have taken our first steps to establishing ourselves as the champions of free trade and taking our place, once again, as one of the greatest open trading nations in the world,” he wrote in a column for the Daily Telegraph.

International trade is set to be one of the trickiest parts of Brexit, especially given the government has now confirmed that the UK will leave the European Single Market.

Previous international trade deals with the EU have been long and troubled. Canada’s deal with the EU (CETA) took seven years and was almost scuppered when the region of Wallonia in Belgium refused to accept it.

However, government ministers have been insistent that Britain will be able to fast track trade agreements once it leaves the EU, with Brexit Minister David Davis saying on Wednesday that a comprehensive trade deal between the UK and the EU could be signed in just two years, despite numerous warnings that it could take up to a decade.

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