Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Adam Forrest

International trade department should be shut down, says Brexiteer who set it up


Rishi Sunak should close the Department for International Trade (DIT), according to the Brexit-backing former Tory minister who first established it in Whitehall.

Liam Fox, made the first international trade secretary in 2016, said it was time for a “shake up” by folding trade into the business department.

The leading Brexiteer criticised the government’s record on drumming up trade around, arguing that the UK was “falling behind” competitors after leaving the EU.

“We need a major shake-up,” Mr Fox wrote in The Telegraph. “Whitehall needs to be properly shaped for the post-Brexit world and the challenges and opportunities this brings.”

“It is hard to visit places such as the Gulf without bumping into French and German groups touting for business, well supported by their governments,” the MP said.

“Yet, in the three years since Brexit, rather than supercharging our presence, we are falling behind,” he added.

The senior Tory said both the DIT and the Foreign Office had been “too heavily focussed in the UK rather than promoting Britain abroad”.

“We may no longer be in the EU but you would never know it by looking at either the laydown or attitudes of much of our civil service,” Mr Fox added.

He suggested that Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) takes on his old department’s responsibilities, creating a Department for International Investment, Business, Trade and Enterprise. Energy should get its own department, Mr Fox argued.

The Brexiteer MP – who famously said that the trade deal with the EU would be the “easiest in history” – now leads the independent Global Britain Commission initiative.

It has recommended a new Commons select committee on “economic growth” to scrutinise the government’s post-Brexit policies, as well as a new advisory council on trade.

“Global Britain cannot just be a nice post-Brexit soundbite,” said Mr Fox, arguing that it had to be a top priority if the UK wanted to “play in the global first division and avoid relegation”.

It comes as foreign secretary James Cleverly is holding face-to-face talks with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic in Brussels to discuss the ongoing Northern Ireland Protocol deadlock.

No 10 and Brussels officials are reportedly keen for a compromise deal on protocol trade checks by February. It would allow US president Joe Biden to plan for a visit in April for the 25th Good Friday Agreement anniversary.

It comes as Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris convened at meeting of Stormont leaders as he presses the region’s politicians to restore powersharing.

Devolution has been in flux since February when the DUP withdrew in protest over the Brexit deal’s protocol barriers on trade between NI and Great Britain.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.