Liam Fox has come in for scathing criticism after being caught undermining UK businesses whilst speaking at a drinks reception.
The International Trade Secretary said British executives prefer to play golf rather than fulfilling their “duty” as exporters in an extraordinary attack on the country’s “lazy” business culture.
The Cabinet minister suggested the UK had lost its way as a trading nation and had grown “too fat” on the successes of previous generations.
As the country adapts to new circumstances following the vote to leave the European Union, Dr Fox said Britain’s business attitudes have to adapt, reports the Press Association.
“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?
Dr Fox also risked inflaming tensions between his department, created by Theresa May when she entered Number 10, and Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office.
He said his department would “look at the GDP map of the world” - noting that the city of Los Angeles has higher gross domestic product than Saudi Arabia.
“We have to start to think about (the world) in a totally different way,” he told the reception.
The prominent Brexit-backer suggested the UK would secure a “unique” settlement after leaving the EU.
Dr Fox also revealed that investment policy would change to give equal weight to British firms putting money into overseas projects rather than encouraging the flow of foreign cash into the UK.
“And that’s a problem because it’s great the year we get the foreign investment and we get jobs created, but every year after that all their income flows that go to their parent companies or their parent countries are outward flows in our current account.
“Unless we have counterbalancing overseas development, overseas investment, we are unable to get those income flows to counterbalance that.”
Many people pointed to the scandal in 2011 when Fox was forced to resign as Defence Secretary after it emerged he had given a close friend improper access to the highest level of government affairs.
“Protectionism has always ended in tears,” he said. “We must be unreconstructed, unapologetic free traders.”
Former minister Pat McFadden, a senior Labour supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said: “It is hard to see why the Government’s trade minister is attacking British business when he is supposed to be promoting the UK as a great place to do business.”
Downing Street has said the comments represent Fox’s personal views and not those of government.