1. Raab in Australia at start of trade mission (BBC)

  • Dominic Raab has said the UK will be “energetic champions of free and open trade” now it has left the EU. Trade between the UK and Australia was worth £18.3bn in 2019.
  • He met his Australian counterpart Marise Payne on Thursday, calling Australia “a natural partner”.
  • The UK is hoping for early trade deals with Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the US after its departure from the EU. Mr Raab will visit Japan, Singapore and Malaysia over the next few days.
  • The trip comes after trade minister Liz Truss said the UK was seeking broad reductions in tariffs in a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.
  • Ms Truss said the UK would not compromise on its high animal welfare and food standards and the price the NHS pays for drugs, which she said would not be on the table in trade talks.

2. UK to reverse plans to slash import tariffs after Brexit (The Guardian)

  • The government is preparing to reverse plans put forward last year to cut import tariffs on most goods coming to the UK under proposals for post-Brexit trade agreements.
  • The Department for International Trade has opted to simplify the current regime rather than abolish large parts of it, as Theresa May’s government planned under a temporary scheme to follow a no-deal Brexit.
  • The trade secretary, Liz Truss, said she would consult business groups on whether the government should simplify its tariff policy, which she said would ensure greater choice and lower prices for consumers. She said she wanted to hear from businesses during a four-week consultation from 5 March before replacing EU tariffs that remain in force for the rest of this year.
  • Truss said the purpose of the review was to simplify and tailor tariffs to suit UK businesses and households, “such as removing tariffs of less than 2.5% and rounding tariffs down to the nearest 2.5%, 5% or 10% band”. Goods such as fire extinguishers, pencils, bicycle pumps and some household fridges currently have tariffs below 2.5%, which might, under the proposal, be removed.
  • Ministers are also seeking views on whether to remove tariffs on components used in factory production to try to reduce costs for UK manufacturers.
  • Last year the government said 87% of imports into the UK would not attract a tariff once the UK was outside the EU’s single market and customs union, leaving large parts of the agricultural sector facing being undercut by cheaper foreign imports.