U.K. Seeks Simpler Tariffs, U.S. Deal to Boost Post-Brexit Trade
Boris Johnson’s government sought to burnish the U.K.’s post-Brexit trade credentials as it laid out its ambitions for a deal with the U.S. and plans to make it easier for all countries to export goods to Britain.
Setting out the principles that will guide talks with Washington, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said Britain wants mutually beneficial tariff cuts while protecting “sensitive” U.K. products. It also wants to boost the British services industry and maximize access to U.S. government procurement.
Johnson has long argued that the ability to strike trade deals is one of the great prizes of leaving the European Union, and is prioritizing agreements with the U.S., Japan, Australia and New Zealand this year. But his government also announced plans to relax trade access to the U.K. more widely.
Under proposals announced Thursday, the U.K. would simplify import tariffs once a post-Brexit transition period with the EU expires at the end of December and Britain will be able set its own rates. The smallest tariffs would be abolished, as would those on key components and on goods which the U.K. doesn’t produce itself. Other rates would be rounded down to the nearest 2.5% under the plans, which are open to public consultation until March 5.
“It is vitally important that we now move away from complex tariff schedule imposed on us by the European Union. High tariffs impinge on businesses and raise costs for consumers,” Truss said in an emailed statement. “This is our opportunity to set our own tariff strategy that is right for U.K. consumers and businesses across our country.”
In a separate written statement to Parliament, Truss said the U.K. intends to “drive a hard bargain,” even as it works to seal trade deals with countries accounting for 80% of Britain’s trade within three years. The government must be “prepared to walk away” from negotiations if necessary, she said.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is in Australia on Thursday to kick-start efforts to secure a trade agreement with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s administration, as part of a four-nation tour that also includes Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.
Truss repeated the government’s position that the state-run National Health Service “will not be on the table” in trade talks and that the U.K. will not compromise on environment, animal welfare or food standards.
Talks with Australia, New Zealand and Japan “will also be a potential stepping-stone” to joining the a broader Pacific trade agreement known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, Truss said.
On post-Brexit import tariffs, the Trade Department said the world’s poorest nations will continue to benefit from the lower tariff access they already have to U.K. markets. Special arrangements will apply to goods entering Northern Ireland, in line with the withdrawal agreement struck with the EU, it said.
The government also said it will review 43 EU trade remedy measures, deemed important to U.K. industries, including anti-dumping duties on imports of ceramic kitchenware and tableware from China.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.