The Hungarian Government has broken ranks from the rest of the EU to back Liam Fox, a former UK Cabinet minister, for the next director general of the World Trade Organisation.
In a statement released on Facebook, Péter Szijjártó, the Hungarian foreign affairs minister, said Boris Johnson had successfully canvassed his Government into supporting the former international trade secretary for the job.
The move is a significant departure from the stance of the rest of the EU, who it has been reported voted in a bloc for another candidate in an attempt to prevent Mr Fox’s appointment.
The deliberations of member states are kept secret, but one Whitehall source briefed the Sun: “Liam’s progression through this process is evidence of the global support we can command as a country with a huge reputation for supporting free trade.
“Whatever the eventual outcome of the nomination, it’s clear the UK doesn’t need EU support to make an impact as an independent nation.”
Despite the support of the Hungarians, Mr Fox is still an outsider and is thought to be trailing behind the favourite, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian-born economist and international development expert.
The other remaining candidates are Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri, a Saudi minister, Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s nomination, and Yoo Myung-hee, South Korea’s trade minister.
Mr Szijjártó said: “On Friday night, my British colleague Boris Johnson, my former colleague and friend, discussed the next steps over the phone. In the second round of voting, we will thus support my two former colleagues, former Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed and Liam Fox, the former British Minister for Trade.”
When the announcement that Mr Fox had made it into the final five was made last week, Mr Johnson tweeted: “With a wealth of experience of institutional reform, and as a passionate advocate for international cooperation and free trade, the WTO would be in excellent hands under his leadership.”
Liz Truss, his successor as international trade secretary, added: “His energetic campaign has gained the support of countries around the world. Liam is a fierce champion of free and fair trade and has the skills to move the WTO forward.”