Britain could “simply replicate” its trade deals outside the European Union, said International Trade Secretary and leading advocate of Brexit Liam Fox.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with the World Trade Organisation in Geneva on Thursday, Fox repeated his assertion that the UK could not leave the EU and remain in the single market and customs union.
He also denied that he was pressing for the government to walk away from talks with the EU if an acceptable post-Brexit deal could not be agreed.
Embattled Prime Minister Theresa May was forced on Wednesday to rebuke Cabinet ministers for briefing against each other over Britain’s Brexit strategy as civil war broke out among colleagues.
She also warned the warring parties within government that no minister is “unsackable” after Chancellor Philip Hammond was briefed against by colleagues over his softer stance on Brexit by those who wanted to sever all ties with the bloc.
Hammond has warned that not deal with the EU would hit the domestic economy hard.
Fox was also scheduled to deliver a speech in Geneva where he said he would warn against “the rising voices of protectionism around the world [and] make the moral case for trade”.
“As Britain leaves the European Union, as we take up an independent seat on the World Trade Organisation, we want our voice to be heard,” he told the BBC.
He said he believed that talks with the WTO indicated that “we will simply replicate our current obligations under the European Union as we move into the United Kingdom as an independent member”.
He insisted he still wanted a deal with the EU.
“The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history. We are already beginning with zero tariffs, and we are already beginning at the point of maximal regulatory equivalence, as it is called. In other words, our rules and our laws are exactly the same.”
“The only reason that we wouldn’t come to a free and open agreement is because politics gets in the way of economics,” he said.
However, he added: “You can not leave the European Union and be in the single market and the customs union.”