Britain will scrap all levies on £30bn of imports when formally leaving the EU at the end of the year making household appliances and foods cheaper


A range of household appliances and foods will be cheaper and consumers offered more choice, ministers say, under a new trade regime set to begin in January.

Britain will scrap all levies on £62bn of imports when formally leaving EU rules at the end of the year, it has been announced.

Products such as fridge-freezers, dishwashers and other household goods which are currently marked up by up to 3% will have no tariffs at all.

However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warned that without a trade deal with the EU, families were likely to face a rise in food costs overall – as agricultural goods imported from Europe will face new levies.

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and British Prime Minister’s Europe adviser David Frost are seen at start of the first round of post-Brexit trade deal talks

The UK and EU’s Brexit negotiators have made statements on the lack of progress in the third round of talks.

But tariffs will remain on UK-produced cars – at 10% – and on agricultural products including lamb, beef and butter at their current levels, following concerns that these industries could be decimated by Brexit.

These new tariffs will be applied to trade with any country with which the UK has not negotiated a trade deal by the time the transition period ends on 31 December.

Ms Truss said today: “For the first time in 50 years we are able to set our own tariff regime that is tailored to the UK economy.

“Our new Global Tariff will benefit UK consumers and households by cutting red tape and reducing the cost of thousands of everyday products.

“With this straightforward approach, we are backing UK industry and helping businesses overcome the unprecedented economic challenges posed by coronavirus.”

Under the new rules, 60% of UK trade – worth £425bn – would be tariff-free on World Trade Organisation terms or through trade deals – and this would increase as more trade deals are struck.

This compares with 47% of trade which is tax-free for the UK currently, under EU rules.

This means an extra £62bn of trade would be tariff-free altogether, around half of which is finished goods and £30bn is for products used in manufacturing supply chains.

This announcement is being made now, it is understood, in order to give businesses notice about what they can expect post-Brexit.

Prices for consumers depend on businesses passing on any saving.

It had been expected last year that the UK would scrap tariffs on up to 90% of goods, but the plans appear to have been watered down.

Ceramics and glass – UK industries which were also deeply concerned about the end of tariffs leading to intense competition – will also retain theirs.

Zero tariffs will apply on:

Dishwashers (down from 2.7%)
Freezers (down from 2.5%)
Sanitary products and tampons (down from 6.3%)
Paints (down from 6.5%) and screwdrivers (down from 2.7%)
Mirrors (down from 4%)
Scissors and garden shears (down from 4.7%)
Padlocks (down from 2.7%)
Cooking products such as baking powder (down from 6.1%), yeast (down from 12%), bay leaves (down from 7%), ground thyme (down from 8.5%) and cocoa powder (down from 8%)
Christmas trees (down from 2.5%)
There is also a temporary zero rates on medical products to fight COVID-19 including PPE, and disinfectant.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson welcomed the “positive movement on tariffs” for items such as household appliances.

But she added: “Without a trade deal with the EU, families across the country are likely to face higher food costs.

“It remains essential that the UK agrees a comprehensive deal that reduces friction – such as checks and delays at the border – and allows tariff-free trade to continue with the EU.

“UK consumers have become accustomed to a huge variety of affordable food thanks, in part, to tariff-free imports from the EU.

“Unless a similar agreement is reached in the next seven months, imported agricultural products will be subject to new tariffs, raising costs for consumers.”

The tariff schedule is not the only factor that will affect the affordability of goods after the end of the transition period.

If a no-deal scenario prompts a sharp fall in the pound, that is likely to drive up the cost of imports.

Many experts also think the resultant economic uncertainty would be damaging for the economy – if that hurts jobs and wages, it could also make purchases less affordable for many.