LIAM Fox’s trade department was compared to a dentist trying to fly a plane in a damning verdict on its Brexit preparations.
Experts from the UK’s crucial maritime sector ruled that the Department for International Trade is in a worse state now than when it was set up nearly two years ago.
In a withering assessment, they accused Mr Fox’s team of “seriously failing to acknowledge the gravity of the post-Brexit challenge” to the maritime industry, which moves 95 per cent of Britain’s international trade.
Maritime UK, a body that represents nearly a million jobs in the UK, said DIT had too few industry experts, a “chronic” lack of experience and a lack of specialisation as important individuals are spread too thinly across multiple roles.
Despite contributing £40billion to the UK economy, DIT has just one full-time member of frontline staff overseeing preparations for the industry. In contrast, the creative sector has 15 supporting staff.
It also said the department is packed with “career civil servants”, who lack the necessary skills or experience.
And the maritime experts said a lack of resources and poor prioritisation had put UK’s ambition to become a global trading nation after Brexit under threat.
Maritime UK chief Ben Murray concluded that Mr Fox’s department is in danger of throwing away the “tremendous opportunities” that Brexit offers Britain
He blasted: “Within the DIT, there is currently a chronic lack of direct industry experience. While the department has taken steps to take on a new crop of Trade Commissionaires in response to the increased workload, a huge percentage of these are career civil servants.
“How can we possibly expect individuals who have spent their lives outside of industry to understand the real requirements of UK business wanting to sell overseas? How can they be relied upon to make day-to-day decisions on how to deploy scant HMG funds to UK companies?
“They may well be honest hardworking civil servants but in what way are they qualified to do this? You wouldn’t expect a dentist (despite how qualified they were) to fly a Boeing 747!”
A Department for International Trade spokesperson said: “Our specialist expertise helped the UK’s innovative maritime companies to secure hundreds of millions of pounds worth of deals across the globe last year, helping British companies to attend high profile international events such as the Miami International Boat Show and the Dusseldorf boat show in the process.
“As an international economic department, we are attracting the brightest and best talent, growing to more than 3,500 people since its creation in July 2016, and we are currently in the process of expanding our specialist maritime sector team.”
Source: The Sun (www.thesun.co.uk), 5 June 2018