Boris Johnson has said striking free trade deals with Commonwealth countries after Brexit does not detract from a desire to secure a similar deal with the European Union.
The Foreign Secretary told MPs it could be a “win-win” situation for the UK.
Mr Johnson’s comments came in response to Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham), who urged him to use a Commonwealth summit next year “to start talking about how we’re going to recalibrate our exports policy to focus on the Commonwealth”.
Mr Johnson said: “With 2.4 billion people and some of the fastest growing economies in the world, the 52 countries of the Commonwealth represent a superb opportunity for this country to do free trade deals.
“But that does not mean we will necessarily be in any way relaxing our desire to do a fantastic free trade deal with our European friends and partners.
“We believe this can be win-win.”
Mr Johnson was also pressed by Tory former minister Sir Hugo Swire to bring Zimbabwe back into the Commonwealth once Robert Mugabe is no longer leader.
“He rightly sets out what I think would be a fine and noble aspiration, both for the Commonwealth and for Zimbabwe,” said Mr Johnson.
“But of course, I must caution him that several steps need to be gone through before that can happen.
“There must be free and fair elections next year, it then falls to Zimbabwe to apply to the Commonwealth Secretariat and then to make clear to the Commonwealth and to the world that Zimbabwe fulfils the criteria on human rights, on rule of law, on democracy, that are necessary for Commonwealth membership.”