Liam Fox’s trade envoy Andrew Percy has resigned after attacking the government’s move to cut import tariffs if the UK crashed out of the EU without a Brexit deal.
Percy felt “patronised” by the international trade secretary and claimed that the government’s policy would threaten the existing trade deal with Canada, which is worth £800m. The resignation aims to underline that a no-deal Brexit will be disastrous for the UK as it questions Fox’s promise to replicate 40 trade agreements and ensure a smooth Brexit.
In addition, the resignation is one among many, as a series of resignations by senior ministers were meant to thwart any moves towards a no-deal Brexit. The resignations by Tory MPs will also ruin Boris Johnson’s smooth march into Downing Street this week.
Philip Hammond and David Gauke’s resignations “highlight the perilous political climate for Theresa May’s expected successor.” With Johnson expected “to be announced on Tuesday as the victor over Jeremy Hunt in the vote of Conservative members,” the resignations hold an extra significance. It is not only Hammond and Gauke’s resignations, but there is a possibility of other ministers and junior ministers opposed to no deal, such as the international development secretary, Rory Stewart, resigning soon after.
Gauke told the Sunday Times: “Given that I’ve been in the cabinet since Theresa May came to power, I think the appropriate thing is for me to resign.” He added: “If the test of loyalty to stay in the cabinet is a commitment to support no deal on 31 October – which, to be fair to him, Boris has consistently said – then that’s not something I’m prepared to sign up to.”
Gordon Brown has also come forward to warn against a no-deal Brexit, saying that future historians would view it as “an act of economic self-harm that runs wholly counter to the national interest.”
Percy’s resignation is then another warning among many about the terrible impact of a no-deal Brexit. For him, a no-deal Brexit and cutting import tariffs were a huge mistake that would cost them existing trade deals. According to The Independent’s sources: “Andrew warned them back in March, as soon as the UK’s no-deal tariffs were published, that it would mean the Canadians would not go for rolling over the Ceta [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement] deal. He could see they were getting 95 per cent of what they wanted if a no-deal happened, that the tariffs were better than what is in Ceta – so why would they rush to sign up to what the UK wanted? He said it was such a cack-handed approach, but he was patronised by a couple of ministers – including Liam Fox – and told that everything was going to be fine.”
In March, the UK announced that tariffs would be slashed “temporarily” on 87 percent of imports, after a no-deal Brexit. For this reason, Canada felt that there was no reason to carry over the Ceta, one of the most important of the 40 deals, despite pressure from the UK government.
Barry Gardiner, attacked Liam Fox for his lack of understanding of how international trade works and said that “Andrew Percy’s resignation, claiming he was patronised and ignored when he was clearly ‘telling it like it is’, is sadly typical of the arrogance Liam Fox displays to everyone who disagrees with him.”
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