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UK 'open for business' despite firms leaving: trade minister

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Davos (Switzerland) (AFP)

Britain remains a world-leading destination for foreign investment despite Brexit clouds and the departure of a number of companies, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Wednesday.

Interviewed by AFP at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Fox also welcomed a proposal by Poland that could potentially unblock a problem surrounding the Irish border that is holding up a deal on Britain's exit from the European Union.

And with the risk looming of Britain crashing out of the EU in March without a deal, Fox said he expected soon to sign several pacts with trading partners outside Europe to try to ensure a seamless transition.

He shrugged off news that both Sony and appliance maker Dyson are shifting premises out of Britain, pointing to figures showing Britain has attracted more foreign investment than Germany and France combined since it voted to quit the EU in 2016.

"So clearly the UK is open for business and is an attractive destination for foreign direct investment -- and that during the time where there's been uncertainty over Brexit," he said.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz broke ranks with the rest of the EU this week by suggesting a time-limit of five years might be possible on the so-called Irish backstop as a way to "unblock negotiations" between London and Brussels.

"It would obviously be less favourable for Ireland than an indefinite backstop, but much more advantageous than no-deal Brexit," he told the Rzeczpospolita newspaper.

Fox commented: "I welcome constructive thinking on this. The prime minister (Theresa May) has made it very clear that we will welcome any option that might enable us to deal with the backstop issue.

"We want to reach an agreement so that we can get the withdrawal agreement through parliament to give us a timely exit of the European Union, so that we can start to talk about our future relationship, rather than simply our exit."

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