Boris Johnson warns the UK could not cut tariffs on food from Kenya if Theresa May agrees to Brexit Customs Union with the EU

Boris Johnson in Lewa
A suited Boris Johnson looks out over Lewa. Photo: Twitter/foreignoffice

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has warned that if the United Kingdom were to enter into a Customs Union with the European Union (EU), it would not be able to cut tariffs on food from countries like Kenya.

Since Theresa May began discussions with Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party over finding a Brexit compromise, stories have circulated that a price for support may be joining a Customs Union, which would be a repudiation of both the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge and go against a promise made countless times in Parliament.

Writing in the Telegraph newspaper, Mr Johnson explains that membership of a customs union with the EU “would mean that the British government could neither cut tariffs on food from sub-Saharan Africa, nor protect British manufacturers from dumped or underpriced goods.”

While members of a customs union do not charge a tariff on each other’s imports and exports, they do agree on common tariffs to charge external countries. This has the effect of boosting trade among members while protecting domestic industries from external competition.

The EU charges an average of 4.69 per cent of the value of imported goods as a tariff, although agricultural goods are charged at significantly higher rates and a stipulation of membership is that the European Commission is responsible for negotiating all international trade deals with, for example, the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

However, a particular point of concern for the UK is that the benefits of a customs union do not extend to so-called “non-tariff barriers”, the differences in national regulations that affect trade in services. On the other hand, membership could obviate the need for a hard land border with the Republic of Ireland, although should the UK leave without a withdrawl agreement, it is unclear whether either side would seek to impose this.

Mr Johnson’s article is also highly critical of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who he describes as a ‘Marxist’ who is ‘not fit to govern’. He also says he does not believe Mr Corbyn is negotiating in good faith and sees these negotiations as an opportunity to cause mischief and create real anger in the Tory Party.

You can read the full article on the Telegraph website (£).

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