Liam Fox, the UK’s international trade secretary, has said the UK could “survive” without a post-Brexit free trade deal with the European Union (EU).

However, he insisted that a deal with the EU should be “one of the easiest in human history” to strike in an interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

Fox said:

We’re already beginning with zero tariffs and maximum regulatory equivalence. The only reason we wouldn’t come to a deal is if politics gets in the way of economics.

Fox also called for the UK to help “get global trade moving” but added that the country cannot stay in the single market or the customs union past the official Brexit day in March 2019.

He said:

You cannot leave the European Union and be in the single market and the customs union.

Later today, Fox will meet with the World Trade Organisation’s director general Roberto Azevedo in Geneva.

What we’re doing is to discuss at the WTO why Britain believes in free trade, why we reject the concept of protectionism, why we think we need to liberalise the services economy globally. As we take up an independent seat at the World Trade Organisation [WTO], we want to shape the debate.

On Tuesday, UK chancellor Philip Hammond said that failure to strike a deal with the EU would “be a very, very bad outcome”.