SOMERSET businesses remain in a state of limbo and urgent consultation and clarity is needed before any trade tariff changes come into effect in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Stephen Henagulph, the Chief Executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce said today (March 13).
Mr Henagulph maintained that a ‘no deal’ Brexit was not practical for the chamber’s members and said the announcement of a new raft of import tariffs announced ahead of tonight’s key ‘no deal’ Brexit vote had added to the existing confusion.
He said: “It is extremely difficult for our members to make judgements or plans for the future, especially when the goalposts keep moving.
“Businesses have not been consulted on the new temporary tariffs which have been announced in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit and to introduce them in just over two weeks’ time would put yet another unwelcome burden on businesses which are already unsure of what the trading future holds for them.”
The British Chamber of Commerce has also raised concerns about the Government’s proposals should Britain leave the EU with no deal in place on March 29.
Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chamber of Commerce, said: “If the tariffs announced today were to come into effect, there would be winners and losers across UK industry overnight.
“The abruptness of changes to tariff rates in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU would be an unwelcome shock to many of the businesses affected.
“If the government were to bring these tariffs into effect on March 30, the move would also have the potential to cede negotiating leverage in future trade talks.”
MPs are due to vote tonight on whether to remove ‘no deal’ from the Brexit negotiating after they rejected the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement for a second time.
In response, the Government announced it would cut tariffs on a rage of imports from outside of the EU and introduce measures to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland should ‘no deal’ go ahead.
Under a temporary 12 month ‘no deal’ scheme, 87% of imports by value would be eligible for zero-tariff access, up from the current 80% level. Tariffs would also be maintained to protect some industries, including agriculture.
The Government also announced it would introduce any new checks or controls, or require customs declarations for any goods moving across the border from Ireland to Northern Ireland if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Mr Henagulph added: “Although there are still a lot of questions to be answered, Somerset Chamber of Commerce is here to provide support and guidance to our members and we have produced an FAQ guide on the latest Government tariff proposals.
“Any Somerset-based business with questions about Brexit should contact the Chamber or look at the dedicated Brexit section on our website at www.somerset-chamber.co.uk.”