Britain will slash tariffs on the majority of products imported from outside of the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Should the UK crash out of the EU without a deal, the number of items eligible for zero-tariff access will rise from 80 per cent to 87.

But some products coming from the remaining 27 EU member states which are currently imported free of tariffs would face levies for the first time.

The moves have been slammed by business leaders, branded a “sledgehammer for our economy” while there are warnings cheaper steel imports could “destroy” UK manufacturing jobs.

What will there be tariffs on?

Under the plans the vast majority of imports would have tariffs set at zero, leaving just 13 per cent of products subject to them.

These would include some sensitive imports such as food and cars.

Sensitive imports that would have tariffs include:

  • Beef, lamb, pork and poultry and some dairy products – which would protect UK farmers and producers from cheap imports
  • A number of tariffs would be placed on finished vehicles to support the automotive sector – these will not apply to car parts imported from the EU to prevent disruption to supply chains
  • Certain ceramics, fertiliser and fuel – where the tariffs will protect UK producers against unfair practices like dumping and state subsidies
  • Bananas, raw cane sugar and certain kinds of fish – with tariffs used to permit preferential access to the UK market for developing countries

The largest tariffs would impact poultry meat, 60 per cent, and beef, 53 per cent.

Tariffs on finished cars would go down but still stand at 10.6 per cent.

The tariffs would also affect EU products which could be subject to fees they had not been previously meaning prices could rise for consumers on those items.

When would they happen?

The tariffs would come into force from the current Brexit date of March 29, if Britain leaves without a deal and this is not delayed.

They would at first apply for a period of 12 months.

During this time, a consultation and review would be taken to determine the steps for the future.

After this, new tariff terms might be announced.

What about Northern Ireland?

Although Britain has announced added tariffs on certain EU products, these would not apply to those travelling from the Republic to Northern Ireland.

The UK Government will not introduce any new checks or controls on goods moving across the land border into Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal in the first instance.

Under the 12-month plan, EU goods arriving from the Republic and remaining in Northern Ireland will not be subject to tariffs.

However, tariffs will be payable on goods moving from the EU into the rest of the UK via Northern Ireland.

This will be under the rates released on Wednesday.

The Government insists this will not create a border down the Irish Sea because there will be no checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Compliance and intelligence methods will be used to detect any traders attempting to abuse the system.

Ministers accepted the new regime will cause “concerns” to Northern Irish businesses and farmers, about the impact on their competitiveness.

However, they said these were the only steps which could be taken to deliver on the Government’s commitment to avoiding a hard border in the case of no deal.

What has the Government said about the plans?

Trade Policy Minister George Hollingbery said the priority was to secure a deal and “avoid disruption” to trade relationships.

However, he said there must be preparation “for all eventualities”.

He said: “If we leave without a deal, we will set the majority of our import tariffs to zero, whilst maintaining tariffs for the most sensitive industries.

“This balanced approach will help to support British jobs and avoid potential price spikes that would hit the poorest households the hardest.

“It represents a modest liberalisation of tariffs and we will be monitoring the economy closely as well as consulting with businesses to decide what our tariffs should be after this transitional period.”

How has the business community reacted?

Confederation of British Industry director-general Carolyn Fairbairn slammed the plans and said the no-deal scenario could be a “sledgehammer” to the economy.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “This tells us everything that is wrong with a no-deal scenario.

“What we are hearing is the biggest change in terms of trade this country has faced since the mid-19th century being imposed on this country with no consultation with business, no time to prepare.

“This is no way to run a country.

“What we potentially are going to see is this imposition of new terms of trade at the same time as business is blocked out of its closest trading partner.

“This is a sledgehammer for our economy.”

While Unite union’s assistant general secretary for manufacturing, Steve Turner, said cheap steel could “destroy jobs”.

He said: “Theresa May and her Government need to stop the economic vandalism which is threatening jobs and livelihoods by properly taking a no-deal Brexit off the table and securing tariff-free frictionless trade with Europe.

“The UK’s steel industry has been pushed to the brink because of the dumping of cheap Chinese steel, while our tyre industry is fighting for survival in the face of inferior alternatives flooding the market from overseas.

“Reducing tariffs to zero on the majority of imports, including steel, in the event of a no-deal Brexit would destroy jobs and leave UK manufacturers competing with both hands tied behind their backs.”

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