The UK government has launched a public consultation to inform its new global tariff policy in a development that will be watched closely by the fresh produce industry.
Now the UK has left the EU, the Department for International Trade said it wants to "make its mark as a champion of free trade, safeguard against the forces of protectionism on the rise across the world, and crucially ensure that our tariff strategy is best for businesses and consumers across the UK."
As part of its approach, the government is developing a new UK Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff schedule, which will enter into force on 1 January 2021.
This bespoke regime, known as the UK Global Tariff, is designed to ensure UK businesses compete on fair terms with the rest of the world while benefiting households through greater choice and lower prices. The government said this will also help to make it easier to trade, drive up investment, and deliver more quality jobs across the UK.
The consultation will be open online for four weeks from 6 February, closing on 5 March.
Goods coming into the UK will no longer be subject to the EU’s Common External Tariff as they have been for nearly 50 years, with the UK’s new Global Tariff Policy coming into effect on 1 January 2021 for imports from any country the UK does not have a free-trade agreement with.
It comes as the government has been setting out details of the UK’s approach to negotiating free-trade agreements with countries including the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
As part of the consultation, the government is seeking views on:
- simplifying and tailoring the tariff to suit UK businesses and households, such as removing tariffs of less than 2.5 per cent and rounding tariffs down to the nearest 2.5, 5 or 10 per cent band;
- removing tariffs on key inputs to production which could reduce costs for UK manufacturers;
- removing tariffs where the UK has zero or limited domestic production which could help to lower prices for consumers.
International trade secretary Liz Truss said: "The UK has left the EU and it is time for us to look forward to our future as an independent, global champion of free trade. 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. This is our opportunity to set our own tariff strategy that is right for UK consumers and businesses across our country.
"I am calling on people, businesses and civil society groups to seize this opportunity to take part in our consultation and tell us what would work best for them."
The UK will allow imports from countries that UK has a free-trade agreement or other arrangement with, and with the world’s poorest countries continuing to access the UK at lower tariffs as set out in those agreements.
In line with the Northern Ireland protocol, special arrangements will apply to goods entering Northern Ireland.