In response to questions about upcoming Brexit negotiations, the Right Hon Liam Fox, MP, Secretary of State for International Trade, stressed that for the UK government, ‘the task is going to be to make sure that economics and trade and the prosperity and well-being of our people takes precedence over political ideology.’
In his address, the Minister referenced the long heritage of the UK maritime sector, and also its unique role in facilitating the drive towards globalisation. However, he noted, the shipping industry must look to the future and not rest on its laurels, and, as such, ‘shipping is an industry that will help shape the coming century.’
The UK shipping and ports sector handles 95% of the country’s imports and exports by volume, and has an annual throughput of 50 million tons of freight each year. Taking in the role played by the wider maritime services sector, then the UK’s maritime and shipping industries contribute some £22 billion to the country’s economy.
The Minister also noted that ‘the maritime industry is one of the most innovative on the planet,’ and in the coming years will play a crucial part in ensuring the UK’s continued prosperity and security.
The conference moderator, the well-known broadcaster and journalist John Humphrys pressed the Minister to address the issues surrounding Brexit, and what might happen if the UK government failed to secure an agreement or transitional arrangement with its European Union counterparts.
How can you reassure people that a crisis is not going to happen?’ asked Humphrys.
The Minister commented: ‘If you look at the bigger picture – if you look at Brexit from Singapore, it looks a relatively small and limited debate.
‘The global economy is growing at about 2.5% and global trade growing at about 1.3% – that’s a reverse ratio from normal so we have to get global trade moving,’ he said.
‘The optimal solution for the whole of Europe is an open and free market which is more outward looking even than it is today from a global perspective.’