UK Politics

UK must make 'moral case' for free trade outside EU

A woman overlooks port works in the town of Tilbury Image copyright AFP

The UK has a vital role to play in making the "moral case" for global free trade as it leaves the EU, a trio of cabinet ministers have said.

Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel argued open markets are the best vehicle for reducing poverty and aiding prosperity at an event in London.

Free of the "constraints" of the EU, the UK must be an "agitator" for free trade, the foreign secretary said.

Meanwhile an ex-Tory leader has warned the UK must prepare for no Brexit deal.

Critics say failure to do a Brexit deal could result in new trade barriers but Iain Duncan Smith said the EU must agree to open trade discussions by December or the UK should make arrangements to leave without a deal.

Accusing the EU of "arrogant behaviour... bordering on the deliberately offensive", he said the UK must "throw resources" at a no deal scenario, arguing the UK's reach in terms of trade was second to none.

As talks on the terms of the UK's withdrawal from the EU continue in Brussels, European Council president Donald Tusk said on Tuesday that he believed not enough progress has been made to move to the next phase of negotiations, including trade and the UK's future relationship with the bloc.

Ministers have said discussions on future UK-EU relations should begin as soon as possible and there are "no excuses" for the current logjam to continue after Prime Minister Theresa May gave assurances on financial contributions and the rights of EU citizens in the UK in her Florence speech last week.

Speaking on Tuesday during a visit to Slovakia, Mr Johnson said "it was time to talk about the future".

At the launch of a new think tank on Wednesday, Mr Johnson, alongside International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Priti Patel, stressed the importance of the UK seizing opportunities to forge independent trading arrangements with growing economies around the world.

"Free trade is not only the key to economic success, but also serves as a force for peace and progress in every sense, giving millions more people the chance to lift themselves out of poverty," the foreign secretary said..

"We must ensure that Global Britain breaks free of the constraints of the EU and becomes the world's leading proselytiser and agitator for free trade."

His comments come amid a growing transatlantic trade dispute following the US government's threat to impose a 220% tariff on imports of the C-Series jet, parts of which are made in Northern Ireland by Canadian firm Bombardier.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon warned the dispute "could jeopardise" the UK's defence contracts with US firm Boeing, a rival to Bombardier.

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