Lord Price, a Minister at the UK Department for International Trade, has told Parliament that the establishment of UK import tariffs at the World Trade Organisation (“WTO“) will be a “reasonably straightforward” process and is likely to be “completed in good time” following the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The Minister was giving evidence to a session of the EU External Affairs and EU Internal Market Sub-Committees of the House of Lords on 13 October 2016 when he made his remarks, in response to a question asking about the possibility of “serious and lengthy” negotiations with other WTO members in establishing tariffs.
Although the UK Government has not formally announced its intended relationship with the EU after Brexit, the UK will in any event be required to adopt its own schedules detailing the tariffs levied on imported goods. This is because, even though the UK is a member of the WTO in its own right, the EU currently has a single set of schedules applicable to the Union as a whole, therefore the UK will need to negotiate its own schedule upon leaving the EU. WTO rules require that each member’s tariff schedule be approved by all other WTO members before implementation, meaning that any one member could exercise their right to veto the UK’s proposed tariffs in its schedule.
Lord Price indicated that the transition will be “predominantly technical“, and that “the advice we’ve had is…[that the UK will be] moving from an EU schedule to a UK schedule“. This echoes remarks made by Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, at the WTO in September, when he referred to the fact that the UK has “our own [WTO] schedules that we currently share with the rest of the EU…[and that] the UK will continue to uphold these commitments when we leave the European Union.”
Video footage of the full Lords session at which Lord Price gave evidence is available at http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/1fd98113-ecf3-4f2f-aeb7-dacf11adc351?in=14:26:28.