Liam Fox

Liam Fox

Credentials

  • Medicine, University of Glasgow. [1]

Background

Liam Fox is the Secretary of State for International Trade and Conservative MP for North Somerset. [2]

A Brexit supporter coming from the right wing of the Conservative Party, Fox was appointed to his current cabinet role in July 2016 after the UK’s vote to leave the EU, returning to government after a six-year gap. [3], [2]

Fox helped launch the Grassroots Out campaign at the start of 2016 and is believed to have been a member of the hard-line anti-EU European Research Group chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg within the Conservative Party. [4], [5]

Between 1997 and 2011, Fox founded and chaired the controversial Atlantic Bridge thinktank. The group had close ties to the Koch brothers-backed American Tea Party movement before it was forced to dissolve in October 2011 following criticisms from a 2007 Charity Commission investigation. That investigation found the group appeared to primarily exist to promote policy positions that mirrored those of the Conservative Party. [6], [7], [8]

Atlantic Bridge had also signed a partnership with the D.C.-based lobby group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), funded by fossil fuel and tobacco companies and known for pushing bills across the United States which undermine environmental laws. [9], [10]

Since the EU referendum, Fox has sought to secure trade deals with other countries as the UK begins the process of leaving the European Union. A US-UK trade deal is top of the agenda, which has seen Fox hold meetings with Washington D.C.-based think tank the Heritage Foundation, known for supporting climate science denial and being highly influential in shaping the new Trump administration. Fox has a long-held relationship with the foundation from his work at the Atlantic Bridge, and Fox’s former special adviser at the Ministry of Defence, Luke Coffey, now works at the Heritage Foundation. [11], [10], [12]

Fox was forced to resign in 2011 from his position as Defence Secretary after revelations that he had allowed his friend and lobbyist Adam Werritty attend meetings at the Ministry of Defence without the necessary security clearance. As an unofficial, undeclared adviser, Werritty also joined Fox for meetings with foreign dignitaries. [13]

Stance on Climate Change

April 25, 2019

Fox was criticised for appearing to suggest climate science could be rejected in comments made to the House of Commons. He later clarified them, tweeting:

“I have always taken environmental issues extremely seriously. The state of our planet should concern us all. There is a clear scientific consensus on climate change, which I fully respect. Even those who don’t accept it should want to see our finite resources carefully managed.” [27]

February 27, 2019

As reported by Energy Live News, Fox made the following statement while speaking at the oil and gas leaders at the International Petroleum Week: [14]

In climate change as in all things, we must never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We must focus on a low carbon future but the simple fact is that for the moment, we do require fossil fuels to deliver secure and affordable energy.

That need for oil and gas is especially pressing for countries in the third world, who need affordable energy to grow their economies to a level we take for granted.

Our commitment to work with the oil and gas industry to deliver an affordable, secure, cleaner future is something you can rely on. And our commitment to tackle climate change is something you can rely upon: a fixed point on the firmament for any investor.” [14]

He said the government “will not use Brexit as a means or an excuse” to lower environmental standards” and called climate change  “undoubtedly one of the most pressing challenges” beyond Brexit. He added: [14]

The UK is legally committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% between 1990 and 2050. This is a commitment that is part of our domestic law through the Climate Change Act, not EU law.

Our environmental standards are already above the EU minimum. If this government had wanted to use Brexit to reduce environmental standards, we would have reduced them already.

The United Kingdom’s comparative advantage is in quality, not price and that includes high environmental standards.” [14]

Voting Record

Fox’s voting record suggests climate change is not a priority issue for him, having mostly voted against measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions over the years. [15]

Two of Fox’s five-member expert committee, formed in October 2017, are prominent figures in the UK climate science denial movement. Lord Peter Lilley was one of five MPs to vote against the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act, and both he and Dr Ruth Lea sit on the Board of Trustees of the climate sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). [16]

Michael Hintze, a key funder of the GWPF, was also the main sponsor of Fox’s Atlantic Bridge. [17]

On Fracking

In an undated statement expressing his views on fracking—nearly identical to statements by some other MPs—Fox wrote: [18], [19]

“I fully understand and appreciate people's concerns about fracking, but let me reassure you that the Government is creating a regulatory regime that provides clear, strong protections for the environment. With these in place, I think it is right that we explore and make use of shale gas and oil. The opportunity to extract this energy, as well as to secure jobs and investment, cannot be ignored.”

He added:

Of course, none of this diminishes in any way our need to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. Apart from the well documented changes in global climate, we should be better shepherds of the finite global sources we possess. We are not the owners of our planet, merely its temporary guardians.” [18]

Key Quotes

April 25, 2019

Shortly after “Extinction Rebellion” protesters glued themselves to the entrance of the London Stock Exchange, Fox highlighted in the House of Commons the economic opportunities presented by clean technology, while appearing to legitimise climate science deniers: [26]

“It's important that we take climate issues seriously. Whether or not individuals accept the current scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, it is sensible for everyone to use finite resources in a responsible way.

“We in the United Kingdom were the first country to establish legally binding emission targets through the climate change act 2008, we have reduced emissions faster than any other G7 country and we are leaders in clean energy production.

“There is an estimated 11.5 trillion dollars that is likely to be invested in clean energy between now and 2050 globally, that represents an enormous opportunity for the United Kingdom, which is already as I've said a global leader, both by practice and by export, and could mean a lot of potential jobs for the United Kingdom.” [26]

February 27, 2019

In a speech Fox delivered at an International Petroleum Week conference in London, he assured the oil and gas industry it could rely on the UK government’s continued support: [20]

In Climate Change as in all things, we must never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

We must focus on a low-carbon future but the simple fact is that for the moment we do require fossil fuels to deliver secure and affordable energy.” [20]

June 18, 2017

In an article Fox wrote for The Telegraph on the need for new free trade deals, entitled “US talks are just the start of exciting new free-trade era,” he said: [21]

This process marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the UK where, for the first time in over 40 years we will be able to take advantage of the growing markets in the world and determine a trade relationship designed around Britain’s national interest.” [21]

Key Deeds

July 2018 

Fox gave the 10th Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, making the case for a US-UK free trade deal. [22]

June 2017

Fox met with two neoconservative think tanks during his first trip to the United States after the 2017 general election. According to documents obtained by DeSmog via the Freedom of Information Act, Fox held a breakfast meeting with think tanks and business associations in Washington D.C. during his trip on 19-20 June. In attendance were the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Heritage Foundation – both influential think tanks backed by corporations and conservative foundations. [23]

April 9, 2017

Civil service documents from Fox’s Department for International Trade, photographed by a train passenger, revealed plans to scale down concern over climate change and the illegal wildlife trade to facilitate post-Brexit trade deals, The Times reported. [24]

July 2016

During his first post-Brexit trip to the United States, less than two weeks after being appointed International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox met with the climate science denying neoconservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. [11]

An attendees list shows that Fox addressed sixteen Heritage Foundation staff, including the think tank’s president Jim DeMint, and executive vice president, Bret Bernhardt, over lunch “to explain the formation of the Department and UK priorities on trade and our EU renegotiation,” according to the meeting notes. [11]

March 2016

Liam Fox voted against setting a decarbonisation target for the UK within six months of June 2016 and to review it annually thereafter. [15]

In the same month he also voted against requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry. [15]

June 2013

Liam Fox voted against requiring the setting of a target range for the amount of carbon dioxide (or other greenhouse gases) produced per unit of electricity generated. [15]

October 2012

Liam Fox voted against requiring the UK Green Investment Bank to explicitly act in support of the target of reducing UK carbon emissions to 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. [15]

2007

Fox’s Atlantic Bridge thinktank signed a partnership with the D.C.-based lobby group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), funded by fossil fuel and tobacco companies and known for pushing bills undermining environmental laws across the United States. [9], [10]

The sister organisation set up at this time in the US was called the Atlantic Bridge Project and its director of international affairs was Catherine Bray, who had worked for Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth and UKIP MEP Roger Helmer. Bray has since worked for Eurosceptic Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan. [10]

1997

Liam Fox launched the Atlantic Bridge. Fox said the group’s mission was “to bring people together who have common interests.” The group would defend these interests, he said, from “European integrationists who would like to pull Britain away from its relationship with the United States.” [25]

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

Resources

  1. Liam Fox,” Conservatives. Archived March 7, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/5PEuw

  2. Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP,” Parliament.uk. Archived March 7, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/16djJ

  3. Jenny Booth. “Liam Fox pitches for the right wing Tory vote,” The Times, October 5, 2005. Archived March 7, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/H7oPP

  4. Tim Ross. “Liam Fox calls for Britain to leave EU and become “an independent sovereign nation” again,” The Telegraph, January 23, 2016. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/l6yGa

  5. Chloe Chaplain. “What is the ERG and which Tory MPs are members of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Brexit group?The Independent, November 16, 2018. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/7viws

  6. Jamie Doward. “Liam Fox's Atlantic Bridge linked top Tories and Tea Party activists,” The Guardian, October 15, 2011. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/7YZG4

  7. Brendan DeMelle. “Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaires,” DeSmog, February 11, 2013.

  8. Rupert Neate. “Charity created by Liam Fox axed after watchdog issues criticism,” The Guardian, October 5, 2011. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/rV2HS

  9. Mat Hope. “Revealed: How the Tobacco and Fossil Fuel Industries Fund Disinformation Campaigns Around the World,” DeSmog, February 19, 2019.

  10. George Monbiot. “How corporate dark money is taking power on both sides of the Atlantic,” The Guardian, February 2, 2017. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/fLDKz

  11. Kyla Mandel. “Revealed: Liam Fox’s Post-Brexit Trade Talks with US Business Lobby and Climate Denying Think Tank the Heritage Foundation,” DeSmog, November 15, 2016.

  12. Marie Le Conte, Paul Curry. “Liam Fox Has A Whole Bunch Of Links To People Close To Donald Trump,” BuzzFeed News, November 12, 2016. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/c5yGb

  13. Liam Fox quits as defence secretary,” BBC News, October 14, 2011. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/Ygx3n

  14. Priyanka Shrestha. “Liam Fox pledges support for oil and gas and environmental standards post-Brexit,Energy Live News, February 28, 2019. Archived March 19, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/0qOlW

  15. Liam Fox: climate change,” They Work For You. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/sOsrQ

  16. Who we are,” Global Warming Policy Foundation. Archived March 7, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/1S8cw

  17. Graham Readfearn, Leo Hickman, Rupert Neate. “Michael Hintze revealed as funder of Lord Lawson's climate thinktank,” The Guardian, March 27, 2012. Archived March 7, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/Ggczd

  18. Fracking,” Liam Fox website. Archived March 7, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/bWNdc

  19. Fracking in National Parks,” Suella Braverman’s website. Archived March 19, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/twCkP

  20. Allister Thomas. “Government pledges support to oil and gas amid climate targets,” Energy Voice, February 27, 2019. Archived March 7, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/K8jZw

  21. Liam Fox. “US talks are just the start of exciting new free-trade era,” The Telegraph, June 18, 2017. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/KrGoO

  22. The Case for Free Trade,” YouTube video uploaded by user “The Heritage Foundation” on July 25, 2018. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  23. Kyla Mandel. “Brexit Trade Secretary Liam Fox Met with Climate Denial Think Tanks in Post-Election Trip to U.S.,” DeSmog, September 28, 2017.

  24. Tim Shipman. “‘Less climate concern’ key to Brexit trade,” The Times, April 9, 2017. Archived March 8, 2019. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/Wbcia

  25. Bill Steigerwald. “Fox: Learn from Iraq,” Pittsburgh Live, October 21, 2006. Archived November 1, 2009.

  26. In the Commons just now, Liam Fox legitimised those colleagues who reject the current scientific consensus on the causes of climate change,” Tweet by @SamCoatesTimes, April 25, 2019. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

  27. Jessica Elgot. “Liam Fox forced to clarify climate change comments,” The Guardian, April 25, 2019. Archived April 25, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/aV6GQ

Other Resources

Photo: Number 10 via Flickr | CC2.0