In extraordinary remarks to Conservative activists, Dr Fox, who is responsible for international trade, said the UK had lost its way as a trading nation and had grown “too fat” on its past successes.
The unguarded comments, made at a reception for Tory activists on Thursday night, have been described by Downing Street as his personal view and not the Government’s.
In a recording of the event, Dr Fox is heard saying: “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.
“And when I look at how this country was built on free trade, as an outward-looking trading nation, and I look today at the proportion of British businesses that export beyond our borders, and what is it – 80%, 60%? 11% of British businesses now export.
“We’ve got to change the culture in our country, we’ve got to stop thinking over exports as an opportunity, and start looking at 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, that might not be able to 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, then you have a duty to contribute to the prosperity of the country.”
Labour shadow minister Jonathan Ainsworth said: “These are offensive and crass comments from the disgraced Liam Fox.
“You’d hope that his enforced break from office would have afforded him some humility, but it seems not.
“He should apologise immediately for insulting Britain’s businessmen and women ?whose hard work in the national interest could teach him a thing or two.”
It is the second embarrassment for Theresa May from a Brexit-supporting cabinet minister in less than a week.
In a Commons statement on Monday, David Davis, the minister responsible for exiting the European Union said it was “improbable” that Britain could stay in the single market while cutting immigration.
Downing Street was forced to distance itself from his remarks.
Dr Fox, speaking at an event of the Conservative Way Forward group also escalated a turf war with foreign secretary Boris Johnson by attacking the “Foreign Office view of the world”, which he claimed was too focused on politics rather than trade.
He added: “The structures of government (have) to respond to where the opportunities arise and the size of markets.”
Downing Street made it clear that Dr Fox was expressing private views, and that the Government was not considering penalties for business which did not export.
A No. 10 spokesperson said: “The principle behind our approach is to ensure British businesses can succeed in the world.”
A spokesman for the minister said: “Dr Fox is committed to supporting the full range of businesses in the UK so that they can best take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit presents.”
Arch-Eurosceptic Dr Fox was sacked from David Cameron’s cabinet back in 2011 after it emerged that corporate donors had paid for his friend Adam Werritty to travel the world with him as an unofficial aide.
He ran for the Tory leadership – against Theresa May – for a second time this summer, but was eliminated from the contest in the first round.
The cabinet minister’s remarks come amid reports that senior officials at the European Commission believe Britain has become “completely lost” since the Brexit vote, and will have to “plead” with other EU leaders for a good deal.
News Source SkyNews