Former government minister tears into Theresa May's 'clueless' Brexit team

Nick Reilly
The damning assessment was made by Jim O’Neill (REX)

A former government minister has ruthlessly torn into Theresa May’s Brexit team, describing them as ‘clueless’ and claiming that their attempt to boost trade outside the EU is ‘fantasy’.

The no-holds-barred assessment was delivered by former Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Lord O’Neill, who said it was ‘mad’ for ministers to focus their attention on trading partnerships with smaller markets including New Zealand.

He also claimed that it has taken too long for the government to pay attention to the huge potential of China.

‘It’s kind of fantasy. This year, China is going to grow by 6.7 percent’, Lord O’Neill said in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt.

‘In nominal GDP-dollar terms, China will create a new Australia this year. It will create four New Zealands this year.’

Liam Fox was criticised by Lord O’Neill

He added: ‘And Liam Fox and our ludicrous foreign minister spend half of their life going to New Zealand. It’s mad.’

The comments come after it was claimed that the UK is considering joining a Pacific trade zone with Canada and Mexico after Brexit – becoming one of the largest Trans-Pacific Partnership members since Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement last year.

‘Within a week of the [EU] referendum the Chinese approached us about a free trade agreement’, Lord O’Neill added.

’Under Cameron and Osborne they would have had that discussion 15 months ago.’ 

The damning assessment comes as a new report warns that uncertainty over Brexit and the unstable Conservative government make the UK one of 2018’s great concerns.

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The Eurasia Group, the world’s largest political risk consultancy group, listed the UK in its annual report of the political risks that are most likely to play out over the course of the year.