The UK government has appointed four ministers to its new international trade department as it prepares to head into a post-Brexit era.
The former trade and finance department was led solely by then-minister of state for trade and finance Lord Price. Price remains in the new team, now as minister of state for international trade (essentially the same role) and is among the four ministers who include Greg Hands as minister of state and Mark Garnier as parliamentary undersecretary of state. They will be led by Liam Fox, secretary of state for international trade.
Glad to be part of the new ministerial team at the Department for International Trade helping the UK trade with the world.
— Lord Price CVO (@UKTradeMinister) July 18, 2016
The department’s remit covers the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and UK Export Finance (UKEF) agencies. The two bodies, which operated within the former department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), were run by Price previously.
“[In terms of individual responsibilities] there are now a total of four ministers who have only started from today, [so] there’s still a lot of detail to be worked out,” a department spokesperson tells GTR.
“In terms of structural changes, again it’s very early stages in setting up the department so while it will happen as quickly as possible, it is something that will take time.”
Price, who comes from a grocery retail background, has only been in his ministerial role since April 4 this year. With no prior political background, he was brought in by former prime minister David Cameron for his experience in deal-making with suppliers.
Hands comes from a career in banking and was a local councillor for some years before entering parliament in 2005. He served as chief secretary to the treasury from May 2015 until July 2016.
Delighted to be named number 2 to @LiamFoxMP in the new Department for International Trade. Big challenges, but great opportunities ahead!
— Greg Hands (@GregHands) July 15, 2016
Garnier also comes from a banking background during which he specialised in the emerging markets of Southeast Asia. He was elected to parliament in 2010 and has been on the Treasury Select Committee and the Parliamentary Commission for Banking Standards.
Delighted to have accepted role with Liam Fox as PUS for International Trade. Important department as Britain looks outward after Brexit
— Mark Garnier (@Mark4WyreForest) July 17, 2016
Price is already on the job of rallying interest for a post-Brexit UK. On his first trip since the UK referendum, he was in Hong Kong and China last week, ahead of the G20 meeting, to promote UK trade and reassure investors.
He has said that Brexit could lead to a “second golden age of trade and investment” as the UK is now effectively starting with a blank piece of paper to negotiate deals.
The day after sterling hit 31-year lows on Wednesday last week, Price told an audience in Beijing that “there has never been a better time to invest in the UK”, as the depreciation of sterling meant assets were very well priced.
He has also encouraged EU leaders to drop their no-talks before Article 50 has been invoked stance, stating that once the UK leaves the EU it would be subject to World Trade Organisation rules, which would result in significant tariff increases.
Meanwhile, he warned that the UK must expand on its team of trade negotiators that can talk to businesses about what they want from trade deals in a “calm and collaborative manner”.
The UK’s shortage in negotiators was recently highlighted by a government review of Whitehall. Members of a select committee revealed that the UK has only 20 active specialist trade negotiators that currently faced a 600-strong team from the European Commission.
The committee stated that the UK will have to boost staff in Brussels and embassies across the world as it prepares for Brexit negotiations and fights to have its voice heard in new competition with the EU, the US and other countries.