As the Tories gather in Manchester for their annual conference, Boris Johnson hopes to use the event to push post-Brexit opportunities – saying that if the government can get Brexit done, a bright future awaits. Among those opportunities are the new relationships the UK can forge with countries outside of the EU. On the latest episode of the Spectator Women with Balls podcast, I spoke to International Trade secretary Liz Truss about her current brief along with her new role of women and equalities.
Truss – who describes herself as a 'Destiny's Child feminist' – says that when Johnson appointed her International Trade secretary he referenced her infamous 2015 conference speech – in which she spoke about pork markets and cheese exports – as proof she has a keen interest in the area.
Truss says that she believes deals can be signed quickly and said some can be signed 'within months'. As for the threat trade deals could pose to UK businesses – particularly the farming industry – Truss warns against protectionism, insisting that Britain can compete.
On the issue of freedom of movement being on the table in a UK/Australia trade deal, Truss says it would not be freedom of movement in the EU sense:
'What it involves – this is not freedom of movement EU style. What it involves though is it used to be the case that young Australians would come to Britain as a right of passage and experience our country and there would be opportunities too for young Britons to go to Australia and I would like to see those type of links restored so we become closer with our like-minded allies right across the world.’
On the current row about language, Truss says the Tories should be able to use word like surrender:
'As for this issue of language, I think it’s an absolute cheek by the Labour party who have said all kind of things – I mean John McDonnell talked about lynching a member of the Cabinet – to suddenly start saying that words like surrender which are a perfectly reasonable part of the English language should be banned.
In general, I am in favour of free speech anyway and I don’t think we should be seeking to limit language because when you limit language you’re basically saying to people your views are unacceptable and one of the reasons that we’ve got to this stage in Britain where things are so volatile is that some people’s views have been swept under the carpet and told they are unacceptable.
People who say this is all terrible and we’ve never seen anything like it, I remember politics when I was growing up in the 1980s. Some of it was quite extreme, you had the militant types... my mother was in the CND, some of those things people were saying on those marches, they would not past muster with the politically correct thought police which seem to dominate in British politics today.’
Truss says her party is now easier to differentiate from Labour:
‘It’s important that we have robust honest debate – we’ve just been through a long period of managerialism where the public would say we can’t tell the difference between you and the Labour party. It was about who will spend slightly more on this or that or who can manage the economy better and I feel that similarly to what the country went to in 1979 there is an itch of saying we something really different.’
The full episode is available here.