Sunday 4 December 2016

Fox, the hardline Brexiteer who claims the peasants revolted against the elite

Published 28/07/2016 | 02:30

British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Liam Fox is not a politician many Irish people will have paid much attention to - but he could soon be at the centre of an almighty Brexit battle.

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He has scooped plenty of headlines in the English papers, not least when he was forced to resign as Secretary for Defence in 2011.

But despite that embarrassment, his ranking in the Conservative Party, which he was chairman of from 2003 until 2005, has always remained high.

A Scottish Catholic, he was raised in a council estate and went to a state school.

He studied medicine at Glasgow University where he won debating competitions and emerged as a right-wing Conservative with a rebellious streak.

He resigned from the student union after it recognised a gay and lesbian society. After college he worked in the National Health Service and as a civilian army medical officer.

He was first elected an MP in 1992. The 54-year-old contested the 2005 leadership contest that saw David Cameron take over the top spot, and got the consolation prize of being appointed Shadow Foreign Secretary.

When the Conservative Party returned to power in May 2010, Mr Cameron handed him the defence portfolio - but his time there was to be short-lived.

He allowed his best man Adam Werritty to take up an unofficial role within the ministry whereby he attended meetings without first obtaining security clearance.

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However, Mr Fox did not fade away into the backbenches, but continued to hold a strong influence on the Tories. Ahead of the 2015 general election in the UK he sparked controversy by backing calls to stop voters from some Commonwealth countries from voting.

This led to a backlash from the Irish community, as it was assumed that their rights, which were similar to those of Commonwealth countries, would also be impinged upon.

Ultimately Mr Fox insisted that he was not targeting the 345,000 Irish living in Britain.

"I do agree with the reciprocal voting arrangement with Ireland, given the strong links between our two countries. However, I do not believe that there is [a] case for other foreign nationals to be able to vote on the future of the United Kingdom," he said.

Mr Fox became a central figure in the Brexit campaign, which he described as "something of a peasants' revolt" against the pro-EU establishment.

He also took a hard line in relation to his native Scotland, insisting that a 'Leave' vote would not trigger another independence referendum.

The newly appointed minister told voters there would be "risks to leaving" but there were "huge risks" to staying in.

In the wake of David Cameron's resignation, he signalled that he would run for the party leadership again. However, he backed off - leaving the way clear for Theresa May to take the keys to Downing Street. She then raised some eyebrows by appointing him to the powerful Trade ministry, which will be at the centre of the Brexit talks.

Irish Independent

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