The disgraced International Secretary Liam Fox has not had a good start to his new career after being slapped down and forced to confront the reality of Brexit.
Fox was optimistic before he went to the U.S. today, telling reporters that his three new offices in different U.S. states would “offer exciting opportunities to boost trade and investment”.
He also said the UK would likely want free-trade agreement with the EU rather than be part of the Single Market and went off to try and strike deals.
And that’s when it all fell apart.
First, Downing Street smacked him down:
Downing Street was forced to clarify Dr Fox’s comments, saying no decision had been made on whether Britain would seek to be part of the EU customs union.
If it did so it would increase the barriers to striking free trade deals elsewhere, as the UK would be forced to agree to tariffs on goods imported from outside the union.
Then, U.S. trade representatives pointed out that there would be no talks about trade until Britain was properly out of the EU.
“As a practical matter, it is not possible to meaningfully advance separate trade and investment negotiations with the UK until some of the basic issues around the future EU-UK relationship have been worked out.”
That was Mike Froman, the US trade representative, telling the Times that Fox was wasting everyone’s time.
Finally, when it came to his speech, Liam Fox had to admit that:
we cannot negotiate any new trade deals as long as we are part of the EU, which we will probably be for the net two years, with an exit in early 2019.
Looks like the penny eventually dropped.
Maybe he should have just stayed at home.