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Last week, the UK Government announced a new tariff regime to replace the EU’s Common External Tariff from 1st January, 2021 (when the transition period ends), and which it will apply to all imports, aside from those covered under free trade agreements.

It includes tariffs on key agri-food products, namely a duty of:

While the EU and UK are currently in the process of negotiating a zero tariff/zero quota trade agreement, which they aim to have finalised by the end of the year, if they fail to reach an deal (or to extend the transition period), Irish and EU exports will  be subject to these new tariffs. This has been confirmed to ICOS by the UK Mission to the EU, the European Commission and the Irish Department of Agriculture.

While it is currently not the intention of the UK Government, ultimately, in that eventuality, the UK will be free to decide whether they wish to continue to apply this tariff, or a lower rate, which would in turn apply to all WTO members.

Such tariffs would not only impose a significant cost on agri-food exporters but also severely hamper our competitiveness and position in the UK market. It is an unwelcome reminder of the urgency of the discussions and the importance of avoiding any distraction or complacency around reaching a trade agreement with the UK.

These tariffs are significantly higher than those planned for under the UK’s no-deal preparations, however they remain slightly lower than the EU’s Common External Tariff. This could pose some difficulties with regard to trade into Northern Ireland, and the implementation of the Irish Protocols of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive