Nick Clegg tells press gallery why Liam Fox will resign 'in a huff'
'I do feel sorry for Liam.... He doesn’t have a job - and he doesn’t appear to have realised that.'
Nick Clegg covered plenty of ground as he sat down for lunch with lobby journalists today.
The former deputy prime minister had much to say on why people voted for Brexit, the "unassailable gridlock" in British politics right now and the "major fireworks" to come in the Tory party.
He also told hacks how David Cameron had announced his resignation "in a brutal act of one upmanship" the same night as his book launch.
And he had an interesting theory about why Liam Fox would be resigning in the next 18 months:
“I do feel sorry for Liam. I’m not a betting man but if I was I would put a fair amount of money that Liam Fox will resign in a huff in the next 18 months. And I will explain why.
“He doesn’t have a job – and he doesn’t appear to have realised that. He genuinely doesn’t have a job.
“If the United Kingdom doesn’t leave the customs union – which apparently is still an open question in Whitehall - then he is heading a department without purpose because he cannot negotiate all these apparently magnificent trade deals with Papua New Guinea and Tanzania and China and India and Australia.
“Only 15 per cent of British trade goes to countries who are outside of the European Union or with whom we don’t have an EU trade deal. So this idea that are these elysian fields of unbridled 19th century trade waiting for us where apparently everyone will give us exactly what we want, even though we’ll be a fraction of the size of what we were – it’s a nonsense.
“So the poor chap… even if they decide to quit the customs union he still hasn’t got anything to do. I hear that his best friends the Australians are going out of their way to try to paper over the indignity of his position… so they’re going to have informal discussions with Australian trade negotiators who have made it quite clear that they have absolutely no intention of signing a trade deal until the much more lengthy, complex business of us extracting ourselves from the European Union starts.
“He’s a proud man. At the same time… they will start as they always do on the right of the Tory party developing this betrayal myth – it will always be somebody else’s fault that Brexit hasn’t happened by next Tuesday. It’ll be the civil servants, the foreigners, the City. A cast of characters will be blamed.
“They’ll get increasingly agitated and Liam Fox will have to ask himself: am I going to stay where I am and become an increasing laughing stock because I’ve got nothing to do, or do I join my spiritual fellow travellers, the angry brigade on the right wing, and say ‘I was also betrayed’?
“He’ll do that. I’d put a fair amount of money that he’ll do that in the next 18 to 24 months.”