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Tariffs and customs on a hard Brexit

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Townsend Matthew
Matthew Townsend



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Benson Jonathan
Jonathan Benson



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01 April 2019

As the political debate continues over the terms, and timing, of the UK’s departure from the European Union, the UK Government has published, with little fanfare, its proposed tariff rates to apply to UK imports in the event of a hard Brexit.

Prior to the UK Government’s announcement, it had stated that the UK would replicate the current tariff rates imposed by the UK as a member of the European Union. However, that would have led to considerable cost increases in relation to a number of categories of goods, potentially impacting on the viability of cross-border supply chains, as well as potentially driving up prices for consumers.

To mitigate against those impacts in the short term, the effect of the UK Government’s announcement is that, for a period of 12 months after a hard Brexit, 87% of total imports to the UK by value would be eligible for tariff free importation into the UK. The products which will continue to attract tariffs include certain agricultural products (beef, lamb, pork, poultry and some dairy products), finished vehicles (although car parts imported into the UK will be tariff free), ceramics, fertilisers, fuel and certain products imported from developing nations such as bananas, raw cane sugar and certain types of fish. For example, vehicles will attract a tariff rate of up to 22%, some fertilisers a 6.5% tariff rate, some types of tyres a 4.5% tariff rate, some fats and oils will attract a 12.7% tariff rate, ceramics will attract up to a 12% tariff rate and polyethylene terephthalate a 6.5% tariff rate.