UK 'will seek to influence Brexit trade deals while still in the EU'
The UK will push the European Union from within to strike deals that open up global trade until Brexit is formalised, Liam Fox has said.
Ministers are prohibited under EU rules from negotiating trade deals with other countries until the UK's divorce from Brussels has been finalised.
But the International Trade Secretary told the Conservative conference in Birmingham that the Government will seek to positively influence the bloc's direction of travel on agreements until the UK leaves.
His speech came after the Department for International Trade was ridiculed on Twitter for calling on British companies to come forward with "innovative British jams and marmalades" for export to France.
Mr Fox said: "While we remain inside the European Union we are bound by its rules not to negotiate any new trade agreements, as Boris (Johnson) repeatedly reminds me.
"But we are able to discuss the impediments that we might wish to eliminate ahead of agreements that we might reach with other countries when we leave.
"That is why you will hear even the most fervent advocates of a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom reiterating that they have to deal with the EU first.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
"And as long as we remain a member, we will push continually for EU agreements that open up global trade such as Ceta, the EU free trade agreement with Canada.
"Their prosperity increases our prosperity, and a more open global market can genuinely be a win-win for us all."
Mr Fox also attacked critics of Brexit who suggested a vote to leave the EU would result in businesses abandoning the UK.
"In case any of you haven't noticed, the sky didn't fall down on June 24," he said.
Mr Fox said the UK's Brexit vote presented a "shining opportunity to make history".
However, his Department faced a social media backlash after tweeting a link to an advert on a Government website which said a "fine food representative" is looking for British food and drink brands which "offer innovative & high quality jams/marmalades".
It said there is an "excellent opportunity for brand names and products to be introduced into the French market".
Twitter users could not resist the chance to poke fun at the tweet using the hashtag "innovativejam".
One person said: "I've always wondered what the difference is between Jam, Marmalade, Preserve, Conserve and Jelly, should I ask Liam Fox or tradegovuk?"
Another said: "The future of the UK according to Liam Fox? Selling 'innovative' jam to France. This is a govt account. Not a parody."