Britain will remove tariffs on most imported goods in the event of no-deal Brexit, the government announced here on Wednesday.
As a temporary measure, there will be zero tariffs on 87 per cent of imports, but tariffs will be kept on farm goods like meat and some dairy products, the UK media reported.
The UK government said the plan was temporary and it would apply for up to 12 months.
Meanwhile, consultation on a permanent approach to tariffs is underway.
“If we leave without a deal, we will set the majority of our import tariffs to zero, while maintaining tariffs for the most sensitive industries,” Trade Minister George Hollingbery was quoted as saying by Sky News.
“This balanced approach will help to support British jobs and avoid potential price spikes that would hit the poorest households the hardest,” Hollingbery said.
Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said on Twitter, “Liberalising trade is a good thing over time, but overnight changes to tariffs would create real problems for some UK firms and communities.”
“Westminster must avoid this unwanted shock by rejecting a messy and disorderly exit on March 29,” he said.
Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, said on a BBC radio programme it was the biggest change in terms of trade in the UK since the mid-19th century, “no consultation with business, no time to prepare”.
“What we potentially are going to see is this imposition of new terms of trade at the same time as business is blocked out of its closest trading partner. This is a sledgehammer for our economy,” Fairbairn said.
Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of SMMT, said, “Today’s announcement does not resolve the devastating effect a ‘no deal’ Brexit would have on the automotive industry.”
“No policy on tariffs can come close to compensating for the disruption, cost and job losses that would result from ‘no deal’,” Hawes said, adding “no deal” must be “taken off the table immediately and permanently”.
Regarding the border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the government announced “it will take a temporary approach to avoid new checks and controls on goods at the Northern Ireland land border if the UK leaves the EU without a deal”.
British Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said: “The measures announced recognise the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. These arrangements can only be temporary and short-term.”