The UK will nominate Liam Fox to be director-general of the World Trade Organisation. I understand that the decision to nominate the former trade secretary, who has been lobbying heavily for the job, was made last night.
There were those in Whitehall who were opposed to nominating Fox. They argued that it was too soon after the UK had become an independent member of the WTO to put forward a candidate and that it would be better to concentrate on some more junior positions that the UK would have a better chance of getting. Boris Johnson, however, wasn’t persuaded by these arguments. He wants to use the UK’s G7 presidency next year to push free trade and regards having a British candidate to head the WTO as a good accompaniment to that. (Given that Peter Mandelson is opposed to the government’s trade policy, he never stood a chance of getting the UK nomination).
Fox will be an energetic candidate, but it would be a surprise if the UK landed the top job so quickly after retaking its seat at the WTO.
I expect that the decision to nominate Fox also has something to do with party management. The ambition will be welcomed by many in the parliamentary party and backing Fox, who supported Jeremy Hunt for Conservative leadership and was dropped from the Cabinet by Boris Johnson, shows grandees that Number 10 can be useful even after you have left the Cabinet.