Liam Fox, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, said at a Conservative Way Forward event that Britain is “too lazy and fat”, with businessmen more interesting in playing “golf on a Friday afternoon” than exporting product overseas to boost the country’s economy.
Fox, who is in charge of negotiating trade deals for Britain once it leaves the European Union, strongly believes that there needs to be a change in British business culture.
According to The Times, Liam Fox made the following comments at the Tory event:
“If you want to share in the prosperity of our country, you have a duty to contribute to the prosperity of our country.
“This country is not the free-trading nation that it once was. We have become too lazy and too fat on our successes in previous generations. What is the point of us reshaping global trade, what is the point of us going out and looking for new markets for the United Kingdom, if we don’t have the exporters to fill those markets?”
He added: “We’ve got to change the culture in our country. People have got to stop thinking about exporting as an opportunity and start thinking about it as a duty – companies who could be contributing to our national prosperity but choose not to because it might be too difficult or too time-consuming, or because they can’t play golf on a Friday afternoon.”
Fox’s views are his own and not a reflection of the government.
According to the BBC, the views expressed by Fox at the event were his own and not a reflection of those of the British government.
A source at No 10 later said: “Whatever form of words we use, the point we all want to make is that Britain can trade its way to greater prosperity, with the well-paid jobs and security that entails.”
Richard Reed, founder of the company Innocent Drinks and vice-chair of the Remain campaign, condemned Fox’s comments live on BBC Radio 4.
“He is a representative of us, of this country, and he turns round and slags us off, calling us fat and lazy,” Reed said. “He’s never done a day’s business in his life.”
“He’s talking about business people here who were absolutely clear in saying that we want, and do, export, and that’s why we do want to remain in the EU… I just think: ‘how dare he talk down the country that he damaged, how dare he’.
“He’s a terrible, terrible voice for British business.”
The Confederation of British Industry also reacted to the remarks made by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
A CBI spokesperson said:
“This is a time for unprecedented partnership between all business and the Government to help our world leading companies take even more advantage of exporting opportunities. Now more than ever we must, in particular, support our small and medium sized businesses to export as they are such a critical backbone of our economy.
“The UK has innovative, ambitious and international firms of all sizes, sectors and regions. They are focused on trading across the world, creating prosperity for our nation and demonstrating that the UK is open for business.
“The CBI and industry look forward to working closely with the Government to redefine UK global trading relationships for the benefit of everyone.”