Are UK businesses too lazy and fat to succeed? Liam Fox thinks so


Are you lazy? Or fat? Do you prefer golf to work? Liam Fox seems to think so.

Many hardworking UK business owners will be outraged to hear that the international trade secretary thinks Britain is “too lazy and too fat” to try to boost the country’s prosperity, according to The Times.

Addressing supporters of the Conservative Way Forward group, Liam Fox, who is responsible for establishing the UK’s place as a global player after it leaves the European Union, reportedly said:

“This country is not the free trading nation that it once was. We have become too lazy, and too fat on our successes in previous generations.

“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?”

He added: “We’ve got to change the culture in our country. People have got to stop thinking about exporting as an opportunity and start thinking about it as a duty.

“Companies who could be contributing to our national prosperity but choose not to because it might be too difficult or too time-consuming or because they can’t play golf on a Friday afternoon – we’ve got to be saying to them if you want to share in the prosperity of our country you have a duty to contribute to the prosperity of our country.”

The reaction

The controversial remarks have received a mixed reaction in the business community. Many believe these remarks are unhelpful and untrue:

Richard Reed, Innocent Drinks co-founder

Talking on BBC Radio 4’s Today he called Mr Fox’s comments “absolutely disgusting”.

He said: “He is a representative of us, of this country, and he turns round and slags us off, calling us fat and lazy.

“He’s never done a day’s business in his life.”

“He’s talking about business people here who were absolutely clear in saying that we want, and do, export, and that’s why we do want to remain in the EU… I just think: ‘how dare he talk down the country that he damaged, how dare he’.

“He’s a terrible, terrible voice for British business.”

Chuka Umunna, Labour MP

He tweeted: “UK business must have woken up today, read Liam Fox’s comments, and thought with friends like these who needs enemies.

“Our businesses deserve an apology from Liam Fox. He would do us all a favour if he thought before coming out with ridiculous generalisations.

“Liam Fox’s comments are a complete disgrace, coming from the man supposed to be promoting our businesses globally.”

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF)

He said: “The comments from Liam Fox were extremely unwise and very unhelpful.

“What we’re looking for in these uncertain times is support from government – not negativity – particularly through the forthcoming Autumn Statement.”

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour MP and shadow minister

He said Mr Fox lacked “humility” and should apologise.

“These are offensive and crass comments.

“Every MP knows of hard working businesses in their constituency who are struggling at the moment. None of them are lazy or more interested in playing golf.”

Pat McFadden, Labour MP

He said: “If the government doesn’t confirm it supports membership of the single market it won’t serve British business, but that is hardly surprising if ministers can’t even speak up for British business.

“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.”

In contrast to these criticisms, some business leaders have supported Mr Fox’s comments saying that he was right to issue a wake-up call to British businesses.

John Longworth, ex-director general of the British Chambers of Commerce,

He told the Daily Telegraph that companies had to contribute to making a success of Brexit.

He said: “The government of post-Brexit Britain has a unique opportunity to make the UK the best place in the world to do business – and business itself has to step up to the plate and make this happen.”

Peter Hargreaves, founder of financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown

He said: “We have a lot of very good entrepreneurs in Britain, but there’s no doubt that there are also some in boardrooms who don’t deserve to be there – they’re idle, incompetent and ineffective.

“I think the sentiment is quite good. It’s a very exciting time, and just the right kick in the pants.

“The so-called experts and the doomsayers should shut up and stop trying to talk us into a recession.”

What do you think? Are UK businesses too lazy and fat to succeed? Please share your views in the comments below.


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