ProBrexit economists urge UK to unilaterally scrap tariffs


**Pro-Brexit economists urge UK to unilaterally scrap tariffs

Britain should be prepared to scrap all tariffs on imports unilaterally when it leaves the European Union to give consumers and the broader economy a boost, even if it hurts some businesses, economists who favor Brexit said on Thursday.

Britain’s government has said it wants to reach a free-trade agreement with the EU when it leaves the bloc, which is likely to happen in just over two years’ time, and finance minister Philip Hammond has rejected any unilateral action by Britain.

Britain currently enjoys tariff-free access to EU markets. But if it failed to reach a deal with the bloc, both sides would probably adopt the standard tariffs which the EU imposes on countries that are part of the World Trade Organisation.

Before Britain voted to leave the EU in June, the country’s finance ministry estimated this outcome would lead to the economy growing 7.5 percent less than otherwise over 15 years, although its forecasts for a short-term hit have proven wrong.

Economists for Free Trade, a group of academics and business economists that called itself Economists for Brexit before the referendum, reiterated its view that tariffs were self-defeating.

Even if Britain could not retain tariff-free access for exports to the EU, it would not benefit from imposing “tit for tat” tariffs on EU imports, said Patrick Minford, professor of economics at Cardiff University and the group’s chair.

“It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s like you get into a fight in the streets, and someone says ‘I’m going to do you!’ Do you say ‘I’m going to do you’ …? I would suggest you walk away,” Minford said at a briefing for reporters.

Minford - who was an early supporter of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s free market policies in the 1980s - said Britain should use leaving the EU as an opportunity to scrap all import tariffs it is currently obliged to impose on goods from outside the bloc.**


Despite compelling similarities in the origins and aims of Trump/Brexit, this is one area where you can clearly see a stark difference in ideology.

Free Trade populism of Brexit vs Protectionist populism of Trump.

It’s also, perhaps, the only issue upon which I find myself in overall agreement with the leading Brexiteers - although I honestly don’t think that we’re going to end up with some paradise tax haven and investor-friendly hub post-Brexit that would be attractive to the British electorate.

Also, wrapping the idea of withdrawing from the world’s largest free trade area and barrier-free Single Market in a “free-trade-on-steroids” veneer is just silly to me.

It’s become a sort of battle between Pro-EU folks and Brexiteers to try and prove which side is the bigger “free-trader”.

At least we can agree on the need for free trade, whether within or out of the EU.


Daniel Hannan has not been shy about keeping Trump and Brexit separate. They are seemingly attractive comparisons on the surface.

The EU tariffs have been costly to EU consumers. It’s unclear to me in all honesty if a Trump trade plan would have the same effect, but having protectionism (as the EU does radically) will mean higher costs for consumers.


It seems to me that the best thing for both the US and the UK is to assess each type of product and decide how to handle it in terms of growing one’s own economy and relations with other nations. Trying to shoehorn everything into a broad philosophy hasn’t worked so far, and doesn’t look to work in the future, either.


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