MPs demand Government sets out plans for no-deal Brexit trade tariffs
Ministers are facing demands to spell out which tariffs the Government will cut in the event of a no-deal Brexit ahead of next week’s crunch Commons vote.
MPs reacted angrily after ministers made clear they only intended to release the new tariff schedules if they actually get to the point of a no-deal break.
It followed a report that tariffs across a large majority of imported goods could be slashed by between 80% and 90% in an attempt to prevent prices in the shops soaring, while signalling the UK is an open economy.
But the claim prompted renewed warnings that removing tariffs could leave domestic producers exposed to a flood of cheap imports, threatening profitability and jobs.
The chair of the Commons Treasury Committee Nicky Morgan said MPs would be “voting blindly” if they did not have the details ahead of the “meaningful vote” on Tuesday on Mrs May’s Brexit deal.
In a letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond she urged him to honour a commitment to put the maximum amount of analysis to MPs before they make their decision.
“MPs should not have to read reports in the press that the Government is planning to slash tariffs on almost all imported goods,” she said.
“This is likely to have a significant impact on different business sectors and regions in the UK economy.
“At present, MPs are expected to vote blindly next week without this information.
“The Chancellor should stick to his word and provide this information to the committee, which we will publish, prior to next week’s vote.”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox indicated that if the Government was defeated on Tuesday it could publish the new schedules ahead of a further vote the next day on whether MPs want a no-deal break.
“It would be helpful for MPs when they are making a decision about what they thought about no-deal to have as much information in front of them as possible,” he told the Commons International Trade Committee.
But he stressed that it was the responsibility of the Treasury to decide the timing of any announcement.
“The Government will set out what it believes to be the correct tariffs, if indeed we get to a no-deal scenario,” he said.
Sky News reported that some imports including cars, beef, lamb, dairy and some lines of textiles would remain subject to levies in order to protect sensitive industries.
But items including component parts used to make cars, many finished food products and some farm produce including cereals, could be exempt from tariffs.
Business Secretary Greg Clark acknowledged the changes would have “big implications” for some sectors, such as ceramics, and said the ministers were aware of industry concerns.
“We have been consulting with different industry sectors on this. It has big implications for different sectors,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Ceramics is an industry that I know very well. It has been subject to very unfair competition, to dumping of very cheap ceramic exports from the Far East, from China.”
Labour MP Anna Turley, a member of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said the reported cuts were “unbelievable”.
“Is the Government giving up all pretence of Britain being able to make anything any more? This will open the door to floods of imports from steel to ceramics,” she said.