Liam Fox gets roughed up by Remainers after ‘EU’ gang attack
The international trade secretary urged the EU not to act like an organised group of criminals.
In her big Brexit speech last week, Theresa May gave the European Union a gentle kicking when she declared that there were “some tensions in the EU’s position” and “some hard facts for them to face”.
Today, Liam Fox went much further when he used a set-piece speech to effectively accuse the EU of using "the language of a gang"
It was unclear whether the EU would take a pragmatic approach to the Brexit talks, the international trade secretary said as he spoke at the annual conference of the British Chambers of Commerce.
"That is largely dependent on the balance between the political ideology of an ever closer union that sees Britain’s exit set an example to others that it is painful,” he added.
"The idea of punishing Britain to me is not the language of a club, it is the language a gang."
EU negotiators have repeatedly stressed that punishment is not a motivation in Brexit talks, but a report published by the European Commission last December suggested the EU could insert a "punishment clause" in any trade deal to allow Brussels to place tariffs on some British exports.
Fox’s speech was immediately seized on by pro-EU politicians.
Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, of the Best for Britain campaign group, said: "Liam Fox is once again demonstrating his knack for losing friends and alienating people. The UK’s best chance of securing a good deal with the EU is for the discussions to be conducted cordially, accusing the other side of being a ‘gang’ only turns up the heat."
Speaking for the Open Britain group, former Labour frontbencher Chuka Umunna also weighed in with a hefty attack.
"Language like calling the EU a ‘gang’ is the kind of ham-fisted diplomacy that only serves to reduce the good will we need on the other side of the negotiating table," he said.
"Instead of name calling, the Government should take a long, hard look at themselves and admit that the deal we can negotiate is a direct consequence of their self-imposed red lines."