I was featured in a debate in London’s City A.M newspaper, on the question of post-Brexit import tariffs on food. I will be posted my contribution below. You can read the whole exchange with Nick Von Westenholz, who is director for EU exit and international trade at the National Farmers’ Union, here.
Contrary what the protectionists will tell you, tariffs don’t only hurt the country upon which they are imposed.
If the government decides to maintain import tariffs on food post-Brexit, it is British consumers who will foot the bill for these duties in the form of higher prices. This is particularly devastating for low-income households, which spend the largest proportion of their income on food.
The UK should remember its bad experiences with tariffs on food. History buffs will recall the 19th-century corn laws, which were introduced to protect local producers against corn from France or Germany. The result of this isolated trade policy quickly became visible: while the British producers profited, the price of grain exploded in the 1830s.
The same economic principles apply today.
Remainers and Brexiteers alike should make it their mission to offer cheaper food and more choices to the British consumer. Tariffs just help farmers, whereas free trade benefits everyone.