Tuesday 7 May 2019 12:19 am

Britain’s low import costs could be hit by Brexit, new analysis shows


Reporter covering economics and markets. You can send me stories or get in touch at harry.robertson@cityam.com

Reporter covering economics and markets. You can send me stories or get in touch at harry.robertson@cityam.com

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The UK has far lower import costs in percentage terms than the US and China, analysis by accountancy firm UHY has shown, with Britain paying 0.5 per cent in duties on its imports in the 2017-18 financial year.

Read more: Liam Fox: A post-Brexit customs union would be 'worst of all worlds'

Meanwhile, the US paid duties of 2.3 per cent, or $66.5bn, on the goods and services it imported in 2017-18, while China paid 2.2 per cent or $47.7bn, UHY’s analysis showed.

In 2017-18, Britain paid $126m less in import duties than it did in the previous financial year. This meant the UK paid $4.3bn on import customs duties in 2017-18.

However, UHY warned today that Britain could face a steep rise in import costs once it leaves the EU.

“The UK has been a major beneficiary of zero import duties within the European Union, and low duties on imports from many of the EU’s trading partners,” the firm said.

Britain’s 0.5 per cent import duty charge in 2017-18 compared to 1.2 per cent paid on average by G8 countries.

Yet rising import duties due to Britain leaving the EU free trade area could affect the UK’s major exports, including cars and pharmaceuticals. Rising US-China trade tensions could also hurt firms with links to those countries, UHY warned.

Clive Gawthorpe, partner at UHY Hacker Young in the UK, said: “Over recent decades, the British economy has benefitted from the low import costs that come along with EU membership. Brexit throws all of that into question.”

Read more: EU threatens $20bn of tariffs on US goods from ketchup to helicopters


“With rising tensions around global trade in the last two years, it is important that the Government does everything possible to protect British businesses from a sudden jump in import duties,” he said.

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