Reuters reports that a no-deal Brexit will lead to catastrophic effects. It quotes British Retail Consortium chairman Richard Pennycook:
“Failure to reach a deal – the cliff edge scenario – will mean new border controls and multiple ‘non-tariff barriers’, through regulatory checks, that will create delays, waste and failed deliveries,” he said.
“The consequences of this will be dramatic for UK consumers. It is likely that we will see food rotting at ports, reducing the choice and quality of what is available to consumers.”
Food rotting at ports sounds horrible! So does children separated from their parents, traces of plastic detected in faraway oceans, and innocent, almond-eyed refugees dying horrible deaths.
But wait. That food belongs to someone. No one is going to ship food internationally, knowing that it will not be admitted at its destination; nor even ship it close to a transition where there is any uncertainty as to whether it will be allowed in. There are more profitable uses for it, and the owner will find them.
Mr. Pennycook is dealing with a situation where Britain is about to get free of European regulatory tyranny and arguing that Britain needs to ensure that there is replacement tyranny in place. He again trots out the “cliff-edge” rhetoric, which assumes that Brexit involves the risk of a drastic and uncontrolled drop. Because, as chairman of a retailing consortium, Mr. Pennycook does not want liberty, in which even non-members can trade, and Europeans accustomed to British goods will clamor for the EU to allow them in.
Pennycook said food and beverage products would face an average increase in the cost of importing from the EU of up to 29 percent from non-tariff barriers alone and warned that many of these increases would be passed on to consumers in higher prices.
Indeed, all cost increases will eventually be passed onto consumers, as the consumers are where the money comes from. But Mr. Pennycook also predicts bankruptcies and farmers unable to proceed with the next planting as they don’t know who the customer is.
By comparison, Donald Trump’s continual tariffs (whether or not they are an opening negotiating position in which the ironic goal is freer trade) have resulted in people adjusting their prices and getting on with their lives.
So to react to an end to “frictionless trade” with Europe, Mrs. May is to be asked to “offer Britain more freedom to set tariffs after Brexit.” No, it is individual Britons who need more freedom, not the government. As a starting point, the day after Brexit, Britain should accept European goods as frictionlessly as it does at present. If Europeans, for their part, perceive higher consumer prices after Britain gets free of the EU, they know where to complain.