Trade minister Liam Fox pledges to line up the US, Australia and New Zealand as first post-Brexit trade deals

Helen Cahill
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Liam Fox expects a slew of trade deals to be signed after the Brexit transition period ends (Source: Getty)

Trade minister Liam Fox last night pledged to have a string of free trade deals ready and waiting the minute a Brexit transition period ends, insisting businesses have nothing to fear from the UK's departure from the European Union.

Speaking at the Tory party conference in Manchester, Fox said he expects to have draft agreements in place with a number of countries, and that his department was prioritising deals with the US, Australia and New Zealand.

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He admitted that negotiating more than one deal at a time was "a lot", but insisted he had the manpower to deliver the agreements long before a transitional trading period with the the EU ends. A proposed two-year transition would come to a close in March 2021.

"We'll expect to have draft agreements long before that with a number of countries," he said.

Fox attacked any suggestion that the Square Mile would be diminished by Brexit, saying: "I do not share the pessimism about London and financial services, because the City of London has a depth of professional services that doesn't exist anywhere else...I think that London will remain dominant."

Any move by the EU to diminish London's status would not benefit the bloc's member states, he said, because the sector would sooner move out of Europe altogether, most likely to New York.

Fox added that both the UK and the US were keen to see the liberalisation of trade in the financial sector.

"The real game changer is to see the global liberalisation in financial services," he said. "That will be absolutely key."

Despite his optimism over future trade relations with Washington, Fox said the US had taken a "disproportionate and unacceptable" action when it slapped a 220 per cent tariff on Bombardier's jets.

"Boeing are behaving in a very protectionist way," Fox said.

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He added: "It worries me that we're seeing a rise in protectionist behaviour ... the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) itself has pointed out protectionism always ends badly. If we can get them to have a resolution, which is what we are trying to do quietly, so much the better."

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