Claims by Brexiteers that WTO tariffs won't apply for 10 years rubbished by legal expert

A 70pc tariff on beef and 75pc on sheepmeat will apply on these products going into the UK if the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal.
A 70pc tariff on beef and 75pc on sheepmeat will apply on these products going into the UK if the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal.
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Recent claims by a Brexiteer that WTO tariffs would not apply for 10 years in the case of a no-deal Brexit have been rubbished by a leading WTO legal expert.

Professor Joseph A McMahon, a Professor of Commercial Law in UCD, said the claims were "nonsense" and that in a no-deal situation, the UK will be considered a third country and so UK exports will be subject to the EU’s Common External Tariff. Such exports would also be subject to regulatory checks to ensure compliance with EU legislation, he said.

Adrian Huston from the Alliance for British Entrepreneurs had said recently on radio that a no deal option should be kept on the table and that the best option is to go for WTO Brexit.

"What people don't mention enough is the provision under the WTO rules whereby you can have 10 years of tariff-free trading after we leave, we have 10 years to come up with our free trade agreement with the EU. This is set out in Article 24 of the WTO general agreement on tariffs and trade and it means we have tariff-free trade, at exactly the same tariffs as we currently have for up to 10 years, while we sort it out."

However, this has been strongly refuted by Joseph McMahon who said that only if the withdrawal agreement is approved, can the UK will continue to participate in the single market and the customs union. It will also maintain existing regulatory checks and continue to be bound by existing EU trade agreements.

"The Political Declaration accompanying the Withdrawal Agreement speaks of the negotiation of long-term trading arrangements between the UK and the EU by December 2020.

"Once these arrangements have been concluded, the agreement will be notified to the WTO under Article XXIV GATT and will be examined by the Committee on Regional Trade Arrangements, who will compile a report on it. It will ask whether it covers substantially all trade and whether the arrangement will lead to the creation of a free trade area within a reasonable period of time – this will be 10 years at most."

So, while the Withdrawal Agreement provides for the continuation of existing arrangements pending the negotiation of a new arrangement, Article XXIV cannot be used to maintain such arrangements in the event of no deal situation as it only applies once an agreement has been negotiated.

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Ireland faces a hit of €1.7bn in tariffs on the food and drink it exports to the UK, according to the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

He told farmers at the IFA agm last week that that a 70pc tariff on beef and 75pc on sheepmeat will apply if the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal.

Online Editors


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