Liam Fox has lined up a host of meetings with non-EU nations that the UK needs continuity trade deals with as Department for International trade staff race against the clock to prepare for Brexit.
With just 64 days to the UK’s default departure from the union, the international trade secretary flagged talks with counterparts from South Korea, Canada, Israel and Colombia for his trip to the World Economic Forum at Davos.
Despite the challenging timeframe – and the lack of political consensus on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement – Fox claimed there had been “significant progress” in finalising continuity trade agreements designed to replicate existing EU arrangements with Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland in recent weeks.
The leading Brexiteer framed the Davos talks as a drive to “get deals over the line” ahead of March 29 and pointed to a report launched by consultant Deloitte confirming the UK’s status as Europe’s “leading destination for foreign direct investment” from 2015-17.
“Davos is the perfect opportunity to show the world that Britain is open for business: outward looking, open to ideas and confident on the world stage,” Fox said.
“I will be meeting with my counterparts in key countries as we look to finalise continuity trade agreements to ensure our exporters do not face disruption as we prepare to leave to the EU.”
Fox said Deloitte’s figures – and data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development showing foreign investment flows grew by 20% between 2017 and 2018 – were a cause for optimism because they gave a clear indication of confidence in the UK.
“Investors trust in the fundamental strength of the UK’s economy because of our workforce, innovation, transparent regulatory system and efficient tax regime,” he said.
“We are a nation on the rise and, with my international economic department already working on our independent trade policy after Brexit, we will be able to place the UK firmly at the heart of the world’s fastest growing regions.”
The Deloitte figures quoted by Fox would have straddled the months before and after June 2016’s referendum. According to the firm, they showed the UK had foreign direct investment worth US$140.356bn, against a figure of US$50.074bn for Germany and US$43.999bn for France.
DIT said Deloitte had also ranked London as the world’s “top city for investment”, with more FDI coming to the capital than any other city in the world.
The UNCTAD figures quoted by Fox said foreign investment flows to the UK grew by more than £16bn between 2017 and 2018, rising from £78.4bn to £94.7bn.