Britain has a crucial role to play to ensure the argument for free trade outside the European Union is heard by as many countries as possible, three prominent cabinet members have said.

At the launch of a new think tank in London on Wednesday (27 September), Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson outlined that the UK will have to make the "moral case" for global free trade, once it frees itself from the "constraints of the EU".

Johnson, who spoke alongside International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary Priti Patel, also stressed the need for Britain to see Brexit as an opportunity to seal trade agreements with emerging economies around the world.

"Free trade is not only the key to economic success, but also serves as a force for peace and progress in every sense, giving millions more people the chance to lift themselves out of poverty," the foreign secretary said.

"We must ensure that global Britain breaks free of the constraints of the EU and becomes the world's leading proselytiser and agitator for free trade."

The event came a day after the Foreign Secretary spoke of the need for Britain to move forward in the Brexit negotiations.

"The British are being pretty positive here and it is time to move the conversation forward," he said during a visit to Bratislava to meet Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.

"Britain thinks it is time to talk about the future. It is time to float this ship down the slipway and on to open seas and get it moving."

Meanwhile, senior Tory Iain Duncan Smith has suggested there was a realistic possibility Britain could leave the EU without a trade deal. Businesses and politicians in favour of a so-called "soft Brexit" have warned leaving the union without a trade deal would be a huge blow for the UK economy, but Duncan Smith said Britain should plan to leave without a deal, unless the EU agreed to begin trade negotiations by the end of the year.

The former secretary of state for Work and Pensions added the UK should "throw resources" towards a no deal scenario, in response to what he described as "arrogant behaviour [...] bordering on the deliberately offensive" by the EU.

Not enough progress

On Tuesday (26 September), European Council president Donald Tusk said after a Downing Street meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May that not enough progress had been made to move to the next phase of Brexit talks in Brussels.

Tusk said Theresa May's "realistic" speech last week showed the UK's "philosophy of having a cake and eating it is finally coming to an end".

But he added: "There is not sufficient progress yet."

May in Florence speech said there should be a transition period of "about" two years after Brexit, during which trade should continue on current terms.

EU migrants will still be able to live and work in the UK but they will have to register with the authorities, under her proposals. She added that Britain will pay into the EU budget so member states are not left out of pocket.