The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned that consumer prices could soar if the British government opts to leave the single market and adopt tariffs under the World Trade Organisation rules (WTO). In a letter to Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, Richard Baker, chairman of the BRC, sets out what he believes to be “an irrefutable case for a consumer-first strategy” to Brexit. The BRC has warned that reverting the WTO rules would see tariffs on meats rise by 27% and clothes and footwear by 11-16%. Imports are already on the rise following the significant fall in the value of the pound last week, when the pound hit a 31 year low against the US Dollar. However, the BRC did indicate in its findings that certain goods which are currently subject to strict EU quotas (such as New Zealand lamb) could become cheaper outside the EU. Mr Baker stated “The retail industry is the UK’s biggest importer and has huge experience of importing from every corner of the world. We will be engaged in a constructive dialogue with government that will bring our experience to bear on the Brexit talks to the benefit of everyone in the UK.”
The Editors’ agree that a 2 year exit does, at this stage, look and feel like a period which is perhaps too short to unravel the multitude of agreements, laws and treaties existing (a) between the UK and the EU; and (b) in the UK as a result of its membership of the EU. That said, once Article 50 is invoked by the UK, progress of the UK’s exit will need to be monitored as it may be the UK and the EU agree that the UK’s membership of the EU is to cease at the end of this period, notwithstanding that a full “unravelling” has not occurred at the end of the 24 month period.