David Hencke reveals that to abide by World Trade Organisation and EU rules, Britain is set to impose retaliatory tariffs on the US tomorrow.

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Britain will have to impose retaliatory tariffs against US goods from Friday 1 May as part of the trade war between President Trump and the European Union, a report by MPs has revealed. 

Even though Britain left the EU on January 31 it is still bound by EU rules and decisions until the end of this year.

 The tariffs issue is just one of some 14 measures being introduced by the EU since the UK left that show how difficult and complex the UK’s relations with the EU are going to be after the transition period.

The tariff rises are small and affect US imports of sweet corn, spectacle frames and mountings, crane lorries, and women’s denim trousers but are allowable under anti dumping provisions of the World Trade Organisation.

Conor Burns, the minister for trade policy, has told MPs on the European Scrutiny Committee, that the tariff increases will be negligible and not affect any trade negotiations with the US. He said the Government will not collect the extra duties after December 31 when the transition ends but admits he has run into difficulties with imposing this on Northern Ireland because of the protocol in the withdrawal agreement. This leaves Northern Ireland following EU customs rules until at least 2024.

MPs have written to the minister demanding a fuller explanation of how he intends to get around this.

Their letter says: “We wonder, nonetheless, whether a broader issue might be at stake if it is indeed the case that Northern Ireland and Great Britain might (after transition) apply different trade defence measures in their trading relationships with third (non-EU) countries. What assessment has the Government made of the magnitude of the risk, how disruptive it may be when negotiating trade agreements with third countries, and how it could be mitigated.”

EU Trade Agreement Problems

The MPs report also reveals problems over fishing, animal health, exchanging passenger names on flights between the UK and the EU, sanctions against Turkey and tariff-free trade between the Caribbean and the UK.

 On fishing MPs have been told that any negotiations are going to be very complex because of the need to negotiate allowable catches for some 100 shared fishing species.

Mps warn: “We are concerned that, with only eight months until the end of the year, there is very little clarity on the modalities for negotiating the 2021 fishing opportunities with the EU or any other coastal state. Between the UK and the EU alone, the negotiation will involve nearly 100 shared stocks.

“While the internal EU negotiation is currently based on multi-annual plans and agreed catch allocation between Member States, no arrangement is yet in place for 2021 between the UK and the EU…. e would welcome an indication of the steps that you are taking to prepare the UK for what may well be a highly complex and time-consuming negotiation.”

On animal health, MPs are seeking an urgent response about negotiations about the export of live animals from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and whether they will require physical checks because N Ireland will be under new EU rules for this from April 2021.

MPs want to know whether the UK will continue EU sanctions against Turkey after the end of the transition period — over Turkey drilling for oil in Cypriot waters.

 They want an answer to whether any changes in the UK’s data protection arrangements will affect the exchange of passenger names on flights between the EU and the UK.

They also want clarification about tariff arrangements for goods from the Caribbean and Africa at present governed by EU regulation and whether after the transition there will be two separate systems for Northern Ireland the rest of the UK.


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