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No-deal tariff changes ‘could destroy jobs’

BUSINESSES, unions and farmers responded with dismay to announced changes to tariffs on imported goods if the UK leaves the EU without a Brexit deal.

Under the government’s plans, tariffs will be slapped on a range of EU imports, including cars and food such as beef, lamb, chicken, pork, butter and ‘Cheddar-like’ cheese.

The CBI said the new rates would hit the UK economy like a ‘sledgehammer’, while unions warned zero tariffs on steel could destroy jobs.

Large reductions in levies on food from outside the EU could lead to a ‘reliance on food produced overseas’, said the National Farmers Union.

There was anger that details of the proposed regime were released just 16 days before the scheduled Brexit date. CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn told BBC Radio 4: ‘What we are hearing is the biggest change in terms of trade this country has faced since the mid-19th century being imposed with no consultation with business, no time to prepare. This is no way to run a country.’

The slashed tariffs on a range of imports from outside the EU could potentially lower prices on goods from countries such as the US and China. Some 87 per cent of imports to the UK by value would be eligible for zero-tariff access — up from 80 per cent at present — while many other goods will be subject to a lower rate than under EU rules.

Ministers said the changes would be in place for up to 12 months after a no-deal Brexit.

International trade secretary Liam Fox said: ‘The temporary tariff would take a balanced approach to support the UK economy as a whole.

‘It would maintain open trade on the majority of UK imports.’