“It is essential the next government negotiates a mutually-beneficial new trade deal with the European Union before the United Kingdom leaves,” was the message from Barry Gardiner, MP for the Labour Party, to the Builders Merchants’ Federation (BMF) yesterday.
“Labour’s absolute priority is to secure tariff-free access to international markets, and ensure there are no new customs and non-tariff trade barriers to hinder British business”, said Mr Gardiner.
The Shadow International Trade Secretary was answering a question from Brett Amphlett, who represented the BMF at a Labour Party event at Charing Cross in central London. Mr Gardiner gave a keynote speech to set out his Party’s approach to trade negotiations if Labour wins next week’s General Election.
The BMF wants politicians of all parties to understand that leaving the Customs Union without a comprehensive UK-EU free trade agreement will unsettle business confidence and planned investments – with negative consequences for the merchants and manufacturers it represents. The worry is that proper consideration is not being given to non-tariff obstacles to international trade.
Mr Gardiner was asked if the HMRC and port authorities have sufficient resources to deal with millions more customs’ declarations that will be necessary when the UK leaves the EU Customs’ Union. The BMF argues that if inspections at ports are not properly resourced, consignments will be stuck on quaysides causing unnecessary backlogs, rising costs and delayed deliveries.
Mr Gardiner said that ‘no deal’ would be the worst possible deal for Britain and it was “illiterate” to say it ahead of the forthcoming negotiations. Mr Gardiner cautioned against relying on World Trade Organisation rules and in the absence of a deal, said there will have to be transitional arrangements.
The speech took place at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in front of an invited audience of businessmen and women and the national print and broadcast media.
Since the Prime Minister triggered the EU Article 50 clause, the BMF has been lobbying to persuade the Government to negotiate a mutually-beneficial new customs agreement based on zero or low tariffs. More should be done to prepare for the possibility of no deal with the EU and the unwanted bureaucratic and financial burdens that will arise from non-tariff barriers.