International consumer group urges UK to rein in on tariff threat

An international consumer group has urged the UK to either abolish tariffs or keep them low in order to look after British consumers post Brexit.

Responding to the disagreements in the British Cabinet on post-Brexit food tariffs, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) has emphasised the importance of trade liberalisation for keeping consumers in a strong position after Brexit.

UK’s potential gains from trade after Brexit “can outweigh the costs”, the CCC’s newest report finds.

Maria Chaplia, media associate at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “Imposing any tariffs on food will not only put another burden on British consumers and increase the costs of Brexit but will also send a signal to the rest of the world that post-Brexit Britain will pursue protectionism ahead of consumer interests.

Free trade is vital for consumer choice as it allows consumers to enjoy a greater variety of products at a lower cost.

“Interventions in the form of tariffs, non-tariff barriers or quotas hit consumers the hardest, and, therefore, should be avoided or decreased at all costs,” said Chaplia.

The CCC representative warned that leaving the EU without a deal would cost the UK 2.2% of GDP by 2030.

“However, unilateral liberalisation would help compensate up to 80% of that reduction in real GDP.

Therefore, it is key that after Brexit the UK either fully abolishes its tariffs on food, or keeps them low.

“Much of the UK’s post-Brexit success will mainly depend on the UK’s ability to develop a comprehensive FTA [free trade agreement] with the EU, abolish import tariffs on agriculture, and build FTAs with other countries by embracing openness, deregulation and trade liberalisation and, conversely, neutralise and potentially even exceed the Brexit costs.

“If Brexit comes with tariffs on food, a small group of people, British farmers, will win while every British consumer will lose,” concluded Chaplia.

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