The Government will slash Britain’s trade tariffs to up to 90 per cent if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. The Department for International Trade (DIT) intends to cut 80-90 per cent of all tariffs imposed on goods imported into Britain, more than at any point in history.
The cuts, which will be outlined in documents published if the Prime Minister fails to get parliamentary backing for her EU withdrawal bill next week, represent a bombshell for many manufacturers and farmers in the UK.
Since tariffs are a charge on thousands of types of goods entering the country, they protect domestic producers from overseas competitors.
According to government sources the 10-20 per cent of more sensitive items which will retain their protection includes cars, beef, lamb, dairy and some lines of textiles.
However, the vast majority of tariffs, including those on the component parts used to make cars, many finished food products and even some farm produce including cereals, will be eliminated entirely.
The radical blueprint, which has been agreed by the Cabinet, is intended both to keep goods prices in the shops from increasing dramatically and to signal the UK will remain an open, liberal economy even after leaving the EU.
However, it will ignite furious rows among producers, since the abolition of tariffs may eliminate their margins and make business unsustainable.
According to insiders, the process to decide these tariffs, which has been carried out in secrecy by DIT, the Treasury and select other departments in a Cabinet sub-committee over the past months, has been extremely fraught.
Agriculture Secretary Michael Gove repeatedly intervened to ensure some farmers would continue to be protected from an influx of imports, while the Business Secretary Greg Clark insisted car imports should continue to have the 10 per cent tariffs they currently face in the EU.
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