Lonely Liam: Tories create new board of trade… with only 1 member
The Conservative government has been accused of “creating jobs” for ministers after the new trade board was announced.
Unveiling the new group, tasked with “ensuring the benefits of free trade are spread throughout the UK,” the Tories claimed ministers and business leaders would come together to get the best for Britain.
However, there is only one real member – International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) made a long list of advisers and big business names, but they will have no guaranteed position.
“The secretary of state, no doubt embarrassed by his lack of a real role in government beyond accumulating millions of air miles, has had to invent a grandiose title for himself,” Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman, told the Guardian.
“It will convince nobody. The signing of the first trade deals are years away, whereas the damage to our existing largest trade deal, with the EU, is happening now.”
The Lib Dem said the board was a “job-creation scheme” for Fox.
Accusations of trying to appease disgruntled MPs come at a time when the Tories are locked in a bitter internal dispute.
The fractured party is struggling to keep its cabinet together amid rumors Boris Johnson will attempt to oust Prime Minister Theresa May.
May recently survived a plot by former Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps.
Ex-Labour minister Patricia Hewitt will reportedly join the board, as well as chief of staff at Manchester Airport, Collette Roche, and chief executive of the Edrington Group, Ian Curle, who will join as an adviser.
It is believed they will be appointed for 12 months at a time, while Fox will be a permanent fixture.
“Membership of the board of trade is restricted to privy councillors,” the DIT said.
“The only member is: (i) secretary of state for Department of International Trade and president of the board of trade (chair).”
James McGrory, the executive director of the pro-Europe Open Britain campaign, said: “I hope that at the inaugural meeting of the new board of trade, Liam Fox managed to have positive and constructive discussions with Liam Fox, after hearing expert analysis by Dr Liam Fox on the impact of Brexit.
“Britain’s trade policy is just the sound of one hand clapping. It would be funny in another context, but not when the government is justifying its decision to damage our trade by leaving the customs union on a mirage of future trade deals.”
The DIT said it was a “technicality” and that it is a constitutional convention for privy councillors to have full membership, which is not offered to others.
“That is why we are drawing on prominent figures from business and politics across the country and not just restricting to privy counsellors, as happened in the past,” a spokesman told the Guardian.
The board will meet four times a year. Or whenever Dr Fox can spare a moment.