Greatest risk to free trade agreement is Scottish independence - Liam Fox

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (R) leave Downing Street following a Cabinet meeting. Picture; Getty
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (R) leave Downing Street following a Cabinet meeting. Picture; Getty
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Liam Fox has said that the greatest risk to economic instability is not spending plans over a ‘no deal Brexit’ but Scottish independence.

The International Trade Secretary said there is no difference between himself and Chancellor Philip Hammond over spending plans for a “no-deal” Brexit.

Leading Brexiteer Dr Fox said it was correct the Chancellor should spend money only as necessary, adding that funds should be spent in areas where contingency plans were needed.

Mr Hammond has said he will wait until “the last point” before authorising spending on preparations for a “no deal” Brexit.

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However, on Wednesday Theresa May said £250 million of new money has been allocated from Treasury reserves to get Britain ready for EU withdrawal, prompting fresh speculation of Cabinet splits over Brexit.

At International Trade questions in the Commons, Dr Fox was pressed on his preparations should Britain leave the European Union without a new trade deal in place with Brussels.

He told MPs: “Our department - and I don’t really wish to trumpet this to other departments - does have a unique agreement with the Treasury, that we are able to increase our staffing levels where it relates to Brexit-related issues, and we’ll continue to do so.

“But as I said, we want to ensure that we will get a good deal.

Dr Fox said earlier the Government is extremely concerned about any perceptions of instability as the SNP challenged Westminster to “publish the reality” of the impact of Brexit.

SNP trade and investment spokesman Hannah Bardell said: “Yesterday, the Scottish Government published a report that showed what is at stake for business as the UK edges closer to the Brexit cliff edge.

“We know the Secretary of State has consulted the business community to find out how it will affect them but will he commit today to publish the findings, as called on by a range of MPs across this House, even if the findings show business wants to stay in the single market and customs union?

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“At what point will this Government stop governing in secret and publish the reality of the impact of Brexit?”

Dr Fox replied: “The Government is, of course, extremely concerned about any perceptions of instability and we will consult widely, particularly when it comes to new free trade agreements.”

He added the greatest threat to causing instability, particularly in Scotland, is the Scottish Government’s threatening of a second independence referendum.

Dr Fox also told MPs there has been a positive response from other governments when it comes to transitional adoption of existing EU agreements.

He said: “They, like ourselves, want to ensure there’s no disruption of trade at the point of departure of the European Union.

“We will want to get as many of those in place as we can. Partly that depends on the willingness of partners to get it ready on time.

“There are obviously contingency measures available to us under WTO to ensure continued market access in any case.”