A NEW body aiming to spread “the benefits of free trade” throughout the UK is to meet for the first time today.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will convene the new Board of Trade in Bristol today.

The panel includes figures from commerce and politics in each UK country to act as the “eyes and ears” of the business community.

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Six representatives for England have been appointed, including ex-Children’s Minister and Tory MP Edward Timpson and Tory donor Iqbal Ahmed, founder of food processing giant Seamark Group.

Dubbed “King Prawn” for his frozen food fortune, the entrepreneur was embroiled in a scandal two years ago after it emerged he attempted to claim £12,000 in expenses from the British Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce after giving the same amount to Conservative head office. Iqbal was chair of the body at the time and they wrote to then-chancellor George Osborne to complain.

Meanwhile, Scotland will be represented by ex-Labour trade minister Brian Wilson, chair of textile firm Harris Tweed Hebrides, and Ian Curle, chief executive officer of Famous Grouse manufacturer Edrington Group.

The two members for Wales are peer Lord Rowe-Beddoe, former chair of the Welsh Development Agency, and Admiral Insurance co-founder Heather Stevens, whose Waterloo Foundation makes grants for equality and environmental projects.

Mark Nodder, chief executive of bus maker Wrights Group, will represent Northern Ireland.

Fox said: “There is a world of opportunity out there for UK businesses and the Board of Trade will help identify and unlock new export markets and encourage further inward investment.

“The advisers on the Board will act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the modern businesses community to ensure the benefits of free trade are spread equally across the country.”

The board will meet four times a year around the UK to ensure “all parts of the union have a chance to raise the issues most important to them”.

UK exports increased 13 per cent in the year to August 2017.