Members of Theresa May’s Brexit team including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Liam Fox have been labelled ‘ludicrous’ and ‘clueless’ about the current economy by recently departed Conservative Treasury minister.
Lord Jim O’Neil of Gatley’s barrage against the current foreign ministers within May’s cabinet focussed on the ‘mad’ and ‘clueless’ decision to priorities ‘shameful’ talks of trade deals with Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand, opposed to China.
In an interview published in German newspaper Die Welt, 60-year-old former Goldman Sachs economist who served under George Osborne, said: “Brexiteers in May’s Cabinet like Boris Johnson or Michael Gove were very intellectual, smart people. But they have no clue about the world of economy. They are clueless, sadly. Clueless.”
Johnson and Gove famously led the Vote Leave campaign that successfully led to Brexit in 2016’s EU referendum. Meanwhile, Lord O’Neil resigned the Conservative whip in September 2016 following reported disagreements with Theresa May’s lack of strategy over China.
O’Neil, who joined the Conservative government in 2015 having previously been an advisor to Gordon Brown under Labour continued, “Within a week of the [EU] referendum the Chinese approached us about a free trade agreement. Under Cameron and Osborne, they would have had that discussion 15 months ago. Theresa May, on the contrary, doesn’t get out and about and think about China. Okay, she was there once for a G-20 meeting, but embarrassingly there have been no bilateral talks to date. She was twice in Saudi Arabia. Not in China.”
In reference to the Government’s foreign strategy, he continued: “This whole thing with the Commonwealth is just shameful. These are all beautiful countries, but…India may promise something else. But when the Brexitians speak of the Commonwealth, they mean Australia, Canada and New Zealand. New Zealand’s economy is smaller than Greece’s.
“It’s kind of fantasy. This year, China is going to grow by 6.7 per cent. In nominal GDP-dollar terms, China will create a new Australia this year. And Liam Fox and our ludicrous foreign minister spend half of their life going to New Zealand. It’s mad.”
Theresa May was forced to delay a trip to China last year as it classed with Donald Trump’s first visit to the UK in November. However, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is currently in China to meet government leaders and business leaders.
O’Neil’s comments have followed an article for Conservative Home from Liam Fox where he urged opponents to Brexit to end ‘obsessive criticism’: “Brexit is not a time bomb to be defused but a great opportunity to be embraced.”
He continued: “One of my most frequent, and frustrating, experiences of 2017 was returning from a positive and optimistic international visit only encounter a wave of criticism at home”.
— Department for International Trade (@tradegovuk) January 2, 2018
O’Neil told the Die Welt that “in [UK] politics a number of persons are neither very clever nor sensible.” However, he did stress that if Brexit forced the UK to address it’s regional productivity issues, leaving the EU might not be ‘the disaster we fear’:
“There could also be a path where Britain, despite our own stupidity, is growing faster, thanks largely to global economic development. After all, we do not live in a vacuum.
“For example, if the pound becomes slightly stronger again, the negative impact on consumers would be reduced. Then it would be quite possible that the economy would be pleasantly surprised. That would be ironic, of course, because the Brexiteers could say ‘there you see it’.”
Lord O’Neil’s remarks have come as this week it emerged that Britain is considering the possibility of joining a trans-Pacific bloc after Brexit in an effort to explore alternative trading markets. This trade bloc would be with 11 countries including Mexico, Japan and Canada. Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the bloc describing it as a ‘rape of our country’.
However, former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has already described it as ‘smacks of desperation’. Whilst Former Foreign Office Permanent Secretary, Simon Fraser tweeted: “Welcome to cloud cuckoo land.”