The "shining opportunity" of Brexit means the UK will become a champion of free trade, according to Liam Fox. The International Trade Secretary, speaking at the Conservative conference in Birmingham on Monday evening (3 October), also promised the government will engineer a "smooth" split from the EU.

"We will be working across Whitehall with Boris [Johnson] at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and David [Davis] at the new department for exiting the EU to ensure that the UK not only leaves smoothly but is at the forefront of global trade when we do," he said.

"The British people presented us with a shining opportunity to make history. We will not ignore it or fritter it away."

The top Tory claimed Team Great Britain's success at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where they came second in the medals table behind the United States and ahead of China, showed what can be achieved with a "determined population of less than 65 million".

Fox added: "We will lead the charge once more towards a world of open and fair trade – just as we have done in the past.We are not afraid to lead or to take our place on the world stage, to shape the world rather than be shaped by it. No, we're not afraid, we are inspired, we are emboldened and we are ready."

Fox was met with cheers from the Tory faithful throughout the speech, even when he declared "the sky did not fall in on 24 June".

The International Trade Secretary's comments come after Theresa May revealed her government will trigger Article 50, the official mechanism to split from the EU, by March 2017.

As part of the Brexit plan, the Conservative administration will table a Great Repeal Bill to transfer all EU law into UK law. The move will enable the government to scrap the 1972 European Communities Act (ECA).

The prime minister has ruled out giving a "running commentary" on the negotiation process, but Brexit Secretary David Davis gave a strong indication of what the UK's post-Brexit relationship with the EU will look like when he spoke on Sunday.

Davis said the government would bring down immigration numbers, a suggestion the government would introduce visa rules which would exclude the UK from EU's single-market because of its free movement of peoples rule.