Finally, A Reasonable Concern About Brexit Induced Food Price Rises

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There’s been an awful lot of scaremongering about how Brexit is going to cause food price rises. All of which depends upon misunderstanding how any system would work. We get claims that the UK must – must note – impose tariffs upon imports for example. There was even one which insisted that we must impose European Union tariffs upon imports into Britain, those tariffs then being paid to the EU. A suggestion of the utmost bizarrity. Thus the usual reaction to these stories:

That is, being outside the EU means we do not have to charge the EU external tariff rates upon anything and can insist that we pay ourselves nothing on all sources of food from everywhere. Economists are reasonably certain this is going to lead to lower food prices in Britain.

We have all long known that the CAP makes food more expensive in Europe. Being outside the CAP will therefore make food cheaper. And no one is going to insist that we do something as blitheringly idiotic as raise import tariffs to prevent this from happening, most certainly not the WTO, whatever Nick Clegg might think.

There are exceptions to everything of course. There was even a mutter – some time ago – that someone found me sexually desirable for example. An entirely odd contention, obviously. And so it is with food and Brexit scares. There is one which is sensible:

Northern Ireland business leaders have warned that the price of cheese and beef could be set to rise as a result of a no-deal Brexit.

The point being that much raw material production is done in the North. Much to near all of the processing is done in the South. Just the way the all island market worked out. But now that northern production will meet the EU’s restrictive import tariffs on its way to the processing factories in the south. This will raise costs.

In terms of what we do about it obviously we just wait. This is something the market unadorned will sort out. Imports from rUK perhaps, the building of local processing factories in Ulster, prices will equalise whatever the arrangements might be.

But what lesson should we take from this, given that actions are unnecessary? Well, those import duties, they make imports more expensive, don’t they? That is the complaint being made after all. So, clearly, in order to not make things more expensive we should not have import duties. That is, this is a story about how not free trade increases living costs, the answer to which is free trade.

Simples.

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Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Phil Collins in The Times (paywall) is still claiming that “World Trade Organisation tariffs would be imposed and goods in the supermarket would become more expensive.” Is he stupid, ignorant or simply a lying bastard? (More than one of those may be true, of course.)