Thursday 29 September 2016 12:01 pm
Liam Fox has hinted at the end of EU customs union membership, promising the UK will lead the charge for free trade
One of Theresa May's "Three Brexiteers" has today suggested the UK is set to exit the EU's customs union, vowing the country would lead the charge for free trade. International trade secretary Liam Fox, alongside foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit secretary David Davis, is one of the most Eurosceptics in government, and he made the case for free trade at a speech in Manchester.
In a 25-minute speech Fox said the UK would seek deals at least as free as present arrangements, adding that "as a newly independent [World Trade Organisation] member outside the EU, we will continue to fight for trade liberalisation".
Currently the UK is a member of the WTO through the EU, and as part of the customs union, imposes a common external tariff on imports from outside of the nation bloc.
Fox's comments come after Brexit secretary David Davis last month suggested that a decision had yet to be reached on customs union membership.
And after speaking at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) earlier this week, Fox also said the UK must seek bespoke multi-lateral and bilateral trade arrangements beyond WTO rules after it exits the European Union.
He added that technology offers an “unprecedented” opportunity for the UK economy but could be clouded by the “shadows” of protectionism.
Fox said free trade has “been one of the great levellers of our society”.
May's government remains tight-lipped on whether the UK will drop Single Market membership all together, although shadow chancellor John McDonnell this week said he believed remaining inside the market was unrealistic.