Liam Fox’s confusion over UK-EU trade will damage UK business, and shows that Vote Leave ministers are breaking their promises

The announcement  by the Department for International Trade that the UK will trade with the EU under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules after leaving the EU will hammer the British economy, and shows that Vote Leave ministers are breaking their promises to the British people.

In a press release sent out today, ‘UK export opportunities remain strong after the EU referendum’, the Department for International Trade says: “If the UK does exit the European Single Market, it will be governed by World Trade Organization (WTO) rules until any new trade deals are negotiated.” This means the UK would not negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU before exiting, but would simply fall straight back on WTO rules.

This press release has since been removed from the Department for International Trade website.

This directly contradicts what every single Vote Leave cabinet minister said during the EU referendum campaign. Liam Fox himself mocked the idea that EU countries would not want a free trade agreement with the UK. And David Davis, now Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, ridiculed the idea that the UK would trade with the EU under WTO rules, saying: “They [Germany] cannot afford the threat being levelled at Britain, so called “WTO terms”, because they would involve a 10% levy on all car imports.”

Trading with the EU under WTO rules would be catastrophic for British business. They do not cover services, in which Britain has a trade surplus and which make up 78% of our economy. And they would impose swingeing tariffs on exports of certain good to the EU, including 10% on cars and 12% on clothing.

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP, Chairman of Vote Leave Watch, said:

“Being forced to trade with the EU under WTO rules would be a hammer blow for the British economy, and would demonstrate once and for all the hollow nature of Vote Leave’s promises.

“They promised the British people repeatedly that we would get a free trade agreement with the EU. But now Liam Fox seems to admit this will not be achievable. His strategy would devastate vital export industries, like car manufacturing, and lead to higher prices in the shops for British families.

“Liam Fox urgently needs to come clean on this vital issue. He must make clear if it is the position of the government that the UK should leave the EU even if we have not negotiated a preferential trade agreement.”

/ends

NOTES TO EDITORS:

A cached copy of the deleted press release can be seen here: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:YoceInHKMdgJ:https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-export-opportunities-remain-strong-after-eu-referendum+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

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