Boris Johnson has mounted a staunch defence of globalisation and warned it would be “mad” for tariffs on trade to be increased.
The election of Donald Trump, who was swept to power on a wave of protectionist rhetoric and has vowed to tear up trade deals he views as bad for the US, and the Brexit vote have been viewed as reactions to globalisation.
But the Foreign Secretary, a prominent Brexiteer, insisted: “This is not the moment for us to turn our backs on globalisation.”
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference he said: “Let’s not let globalisation become a bad word, let’s defend it, let’s exalt it, indeed defend global free trade.”
He added: “It is free trade that has driven our global prosperity.”
Mr Johnson said the world was “emphatically not” witnessing the end of globalisation.
” We would be mad to erect commercial barriers between us,” he said.
“How mad, how foolish we would be.”
He said Brexit would “liberate” the UK to ” do free trade deals once again after 44 years with any and all comers around the room”.
Mr Johnson pointed out one of Nato’s founding aims was to “encourage economic co-operation” between its members, adding: “Who needs the European Union when you’ve got Nato, I sometimes wonder.”
He also warned against watering down sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine amid concerns in Europe about how Mr Trump will deal with Vladimir Putin.
The Foreign Secretary said “w e need to stick up for the rules-based system” and ” if one power annexes the territory of another in breach of the UN charter and the Helsinki final act, then we should remain absolutely robust in imposing the sanctions that are demanded by that kind of aggression”.
He added: “It is the rule of law that guarantees fairness for people, companies and countries.
“And in the end it is the rule of law that is therefore the foundation of freedom and of prosperity.”
Mr Johnson insisted Brexit would not mean the end of the EU, insisting the UK would be a “flying buttress” supporting it from outside.
His Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders told the conference Brexit looked “pretty messy to me” but ” maybe we have an opportunity to find a very good relationship and that is very deeply in the interests of my country”.