Tory ambitions to turn the UK into a “21st Century exporting superpower” have been lambasted as “hot air” .
Unite described the government’s post-Brexit ambitions, laid out by international trade secretary Liam Fox in a speech yesterday (August 21), as the equivalent of “chasing unicorns” given the chaotic state of the EU negotiations.
During the speech Fox said the UK should “set its sights high” after Brexit by raising exports from 30 per cent of GDP to 35 per cent.
Fox told an audience of business leaders in London that British companies are “superbly placed to capitalise on the rapid changes in the global economic environment”.
His speech comes amid increasing pleas for certainty from businesses and trade unions over Britain’s future trading arrangements, as infighting within the Tory party over what kind of Brexit will be delivered continues.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said the speech was “simply more hot air from Liam Fox, who has a record of promising the world and delivering nothing”.
Turner added: “Fox said a trade deal with the EU would be the ‘easiest in human history’, yet more than two years after the referendum and just months before we are set to leave this illusive trade deal seems further off than ever.
“The truth is that under his government the risks of a devastating hard Brexit are increasing by the day and we have yet to see even a hint of the fruitful trade deals Fox has pledged will happen elsewhere.”
Turner agreed that exports should be increased, but pointed out that 43 per cent of UK exports go to the EU and that the nation’s economy is closely intertwined with the continent’s.
He said: “Of course we should be increasing our global exports, but Fox and friends have no real plan to do that. Instead of chasing unicorns, the government should be focusing on the very real and very pressing matter of achieving an EU deal that works for working people.
“That must include forming a customs union with the EU so our exports to Europe, as well as vital just-in-time supply chains and cross border traffic, can continue unimpeded. Unfortunately the Tories are incapable of delivering that, which is why we need a Labour government that will.”