Consumers face rising prices after Brexit unless Britain can replicate trade deals negotiated by the EU with dozens of other countries, the British Retail Consortium has warned.
The BRC’s chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said the cost of everyday products from food to clothing would go up if the UK lost the preferential arrangements it enjoys as a member of the EU. Currently, she said, Britain benefits from zero or low tariffs on various imports from trade deals struck by the EU with 73 third-party countries.
As it stands, those arrangements will come to an end the moment Britain leaves the EU. “On 29 March 2019 we fall out of all of those agreements. On that minute after we leave, those arrangements cease to apply to the UK,” Dickinson told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
So what is important between now and 2019 is that the UK gets on with the job in hand in terms of focusing on at least replicating existing arrangements just to get us back to where we are at the moment.
“We are talking here about everyday products that people buy week in, week out. Fish from Norway, wine from South Africa, clothes from Turkey – each of those have lower tariff rates on them than would exist if we didn’t have those deals in place.” The BRC said the tariff on clothing from Turkey, a major supplier to the UK, could rise from zero to 12%, and duties on fish from Iceland could go from 3.4% to 11%.
The Government’s current position is that Britain will leave the single market and customs union when Brexit happens in 2019.
Two meetings of May’s Brexit inner cabinet and then of the full ministerial team began with a presentation by the senior civil servant, Oliver Robbins. His work is likely to have to drawn on internal research assessing how each possible Brexit outcome is likely to hit the economy.
The discussions are critical as British and EU negotiators prepare to enter the second phase of Brexit talks, on an implementation period and then the future trading arrangement.
The controversy surrounding Davis concerned how British sectors would be affected by Brexit, while the information referenced by Hammond refers to the overall impact of different trading outcomes.