Belfast Telegraph

Government: No Brexit tariffs on Republic goods into Northern Ireland

Labour has warned of
Labour has warned of "grave dangers" of reciprocal trade tariffs with the EU on British businesses. (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Josh Thomas, Elizabeth Arnold, and Sophie Morris, PA Parliamentary Staff

The Government says there will not be any tariffs imposed on goods going from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland as Labour warns of "grave dangers" of reciprocal trade tariffs with the EU on British businesses.

Independent Group for Change MP and former minister Chris Leslie said imposing reciprocal tariffs between the EU and the UK would be a "fool's errand".

He said container ships full of goods are currently en route to the UK with no idea what tariffs they may be expected to have to pay upon arrival later this month.

He said this could affect UK businesses who may have to pay reciprocal tariffs.

Shadow secretary of state for international trade Barry Gardiner said the Government has failed to roll over all of the existing deals with approximately 70 counties.

He said their "refusal to listen and inability to compromise" are now posing "grave dangers" for the UK.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Leslie said: "Erecting reciprocal tariffs between the UK and the EU is a fool's errand, an endless cycle of costs and bureaucracy where everyone loses out in the end."

International Trade Minister Conor Burns replied: "I am happy to confirm, as I think he will know, that there will be no tariffs on goods coming from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland."

He said Parliament would have a chance to have a say on any new tariff regime within 60 days of it being put into place.

Mr Leslie told the Commons: "There are container ships full of goods, components, textiles, clothing, already dispatched from the Far East and elsewhere heading for arrival to our shores for the end of this month.

"Will they face tariffs when they get to Britain or not?

"And if British businesses suddenly have to start paying tariffs to export into Europe, what will be the reciprocal tariffs on goods imported into tour country?

"How will British farmers compete with foreign produce when, for example their lamb will face a 48% tariff selling into Europe, Cheddar a 57% tariff into Europe, poultry 37%, wheat 53%, beef 84% tariff into Europe."

Mr Burns said: "It would be irresponsible to go through the entire list of proposed tariffs prior to the formal announcement by the Government which I indicated to the right honourable gentleman he may not have to wait for all that long to see."

He said the scenarios described by Mr Leslie underlined the importance of getting a deal, and said he hopes the EU will show "flexibility and compromise" to get a deal together that is acceptable to Parliament.

He said this would potentially make the tariff announcements "redundant".

Mr Gardiner accused the Government of failing to consult with businesses, warning of "grave dangers" for the UK.

Mr Gardiner said: "The Government failed to properly consult with business organisations or with trade unions before publishing these tariff measures, ignoring the very producers whose jobs and livelihoods would be most affected.

"The refusal to listen and inability to compromise are now posing grave dangers for our country.

"The Government told us that EU manufacturers would be demanding a deal with us, they didn't.

"They said a trade deal with the EU would be the easiest in human history, it isn't.

"They told us that they would have 40 trade agreements ready to sign one second after midnight on Brexit day, they don't.

"Far from seeing other countries chomping at the bit to strike trade deals with a post-Brexit Britain as the Secretary of State claimed, many of those countries already have a trade agreement with us by way of the EU, but it is a trade agreement that falls away if we leave the EU without a deal.

"Government have failed to roll over all of the existing deals with approximately 70 counties."

Northern Ireland MPs Lady Sylvia Hermon (Independent, North Down) and DUP MP Paul Givan (Lagan Valley) raised concerns about how the tariff schedule could impact the milk industry in Northern Ireland, and asked the Government to reassure concerned farmers.

Lady Hermon said: "The Northern Ireland Dairy Council represents the four companies which, between them, account for over 90% of the milk collected from farms in Northern Ireland each year - we're talking about 3,000 farming families in Northern Ireland.

"I would like the minister to address the warning given by the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Dairy Council today.

"He said: 'If we don't get a Brexit deal, I cannot transport raw milk south without significant delays and/or certification requirements. Then our industry is facing a crisis of epic proportions, epic proportions'."

Mr Burns responded: "What I would say to the honourable lady is that we are still seeking to come to terms and get a deal by the 31 October - that is the ambition of the Government."

Mr Burns then admitted that the Government does not consider the imposition of a temporary tariff regime to be a good thing.

In response to a question from SNP MP Deirdre Brock asking whether the new tariffs will be good for Scottish businesses, Mr Burns said: "We obviously do not consider that the imposition of a temporary tariff regime is in itself a good thing. We'd much prefer to leave on the 31st with a deal.

"What these do is our level best, as I have explained, to protect producers and crucially to protect consumers in the event of a no-deal Brexit."

PA

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