Well, that explains Tim Lang then

One of the academics in question is Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City, University of London. Tim is both a friend and colleague of mine. It is only a few weeks ago that we were considering the forecast of the British Retail Consortium on Brexit. That says:

The weighted average tariff, if the UK were to default to WTO tariffs on UK food imports from the EU, would be 22 per cent. Such a scenario would put upward pressure on consumer food prices.

I think the BRC were inclined to understatement there.

I stress that this is a long way from being the only risk Tim and his colleagues refer to in their report. But if you want to bring the issue home it’s a good one to start with.

Lang’s been infected by the Dicktater I assume. And of course there is no requirement, whatsoever, to impose WTO tariffs upon imports. They are a listing of the maximum we may impose, not a listing of what we must, nor minimums.

25 comments on “Well, that explains Tim Lang then

  1. I’m pretty sure that the current EU average tariff on food imports is about 18% vs about 2% for all imports.

    Therefore to the extent the government were stupid enough not to remove/reduce tariffs on food in light of the current real income squeeze, shouldn’t the headline be “prices will rise by 1.22/1.18 or 3%”

  2. 15.3% (1/1.18) I think, but yes

    i’m involved with a couple of restaurant businesses and suppliers are saying that outside the EU tariff regime they will be able to reduce the prices of a lot of core product lines (fish, meat etc) by 15-20% “despite brexit”

    arguably only offsets the fx hit taken last year, but food prices aren’t going up unless politicians do something stupid

  3. I’ve previously had an argument with him and he assured me there were no WTO trade terms – i was trying to find it on his site but way too much rubbish on there to wade through… Looks like he has changed his mind again…

  4. Prof Lang is a friend of a friend. A nice enough chap in person.

    He’s been spouting this nonsense, along with ‘food miles’ and the need for ‘food self-sufficiency’ for years now. Spud got it from him, not the other way around.

  5. “Arguably only offsets the fx hit taken last year, but food prices aren’t going up unless politicians do something stupid”

    Unfortunately the Pols seem to gearing up to make a right horlicks of the whole thing.

    So you might want to stock up on ammo. Ooops silly me I forgot it’s England we’re talking about so you can’t.

  6. Yes, but it will be politically impossible not to impose a retaliatory tariff.

    And presumably a reduced or zero-tariff agreement with the EU would require tariffs on New Zealand lamb etc – otherwise the UK would become one great re-labelling operation.

  7. “So you might want to stock up on ammo. Ooops silly me I forgot it’s England we’re talking about so you can’t.”

    What on earth makes you think so?

  8. Is there a minimum WTO tariff which we must impose on imports? If so what is it, and why is a zero tariff not possible?

  9. @BiG – We can impose any tariff we want… if we offer a 0% on all imports to the UK that’s our choice… if the EU decide it is “better” for their citizens to be protected from UK good (made here or re-badged here) by imposing an import tariff that’s for them to decide…

  10. “The weighted average tariff, if the UK were to default to WTO tariffs on UK food imports from the EU, would be 22 per cent.”

    Why the fucking hell in a handcart would the UK government CHOOOOOSSEEEE to impose 22% tariffs on imports when by leaving the European Customs Union they would have free reign to set tarrifs to whatever the hell they like – which includes ZERO, and to comply with WTO rules would be requires to be LESS than 5%.

    The “default WTO tariff” is anything less than 5%. NOT 22%.

  11. I’m guessing that politicians will be most interested in looking tough to the majority of voters (i.e. will impose tariffs) rather than looking sensible to a tiny minority (not imposing tariffs). They will be banking on most people not understanding who will be hurt by import tariffs on EU goods. I don’t trust them to make the right decision at all.

  12. Either world prices are below EU prices or they ain’t.
    If they are lower we get cheaper by simply dropping the external tarrifs.
    If they are not we get the same price by maintaining tarrif free access.
    Simples.
    If we choose to impose tarrifs on EU origin stuff (presumably in an attempt to persuade Juncker and chums to get reasonable) then we can get most goods cheaper from outside the EU. Politically it might be a good idea- once 90% of our external trade is non EU, then nobody will want to rejoin.

  13. Yea gods, on the news right now is somebody advocating taxing meat to artificially make it more expensive to stop people buying it. And everybody is nodding sagely. God’s teeth: “even if it regressive and hits the poorest most, we need to tax meat”.

    God, where’s my Hong Kong resident’s card?

  14. Pat, i think that it would be politically dim to impose tariffs in some kind of tit for tat or leverage strategy because some things are always going to be cheaper/better/more desirable from the EU than anywhere else, and some people will notice.

  15. It drives me mad. Even at work presenters, all economists, talk about tariffs on UK imports as being the *default* state and then extrapolate to a doom and gloom Brexit forecast. I raise my hand and ask, given the costs of tariffs are incident on the UK population, why the hell would the Uk government choose to impose tariffs? I get a blank look and a “well that’s our core assumption but they might choose not to” response.

    Forecasts are only as good as the forecaster and a Prof who is friends with Ritchie must have some deficiencies almost by definition.

    Flying to Singapore tonight, again, which is one great big free trade zone basically. Food costs a bomb. Something to do with land prices and the cost of refrigeration I suppose.

  16. Bloke in Germany:

    “And presumably a reduced or zero-tariff agreement with the EU would require tariffs on New Zealand lamb etc – otherwise the UK would become one great re-labelling operation.”

    if we do a deal with the EU requiring us to accept EU tariffs on imports from outside the EU (eg NZ lamb), aren’t we just where we are today? In other words, maybe not ideal (we’re not letting Kiwi farmers compete with EU ones to give consumers the best deal). But there would be no increase over what we have today????

  17. @ Andrew Again
    According to the CIA, Singapore has the seventh-highest GDP per capita in the world, higher than any other country larger than Luxembourg or Qatar, more than 50% greater than the USA and more than twice that of the UK. When I consider how small my food bill is as a %age of my income – I could treat myself to *good* steak and mushrooms at every meal for the whole year for less than one-seventh of my pension (Tesco steak for less than 10% of it) – I realise how far we have come since 1951 when Attlee rationed everything from beef to bread to biscuits, from sweets to shoes, from clothes to chocolates ….
    The Singaporeans have to import most of their food but the cost doesn’t matter to them – it is too small to worry about except for shark fin soup and other pointless “luxuries”.

  18. @ BiG
    The UK imports food.
    It would import a lot less without CAP and the compulsory “set-aside” designed to ensure that we *have* to import some of France’s excess milk production.
    So all the Remaniac numbers are bilge.
    Actually we WERE better-off when we had Empire preference on Commonwealth food instead of zero tariffs on EU food.

  19. I suspect that one of the reasons food in SIngapore I’d expensive is that, like Hong Kong, the powers that be have limited competition such that there are only a couple of supermarket chains,with massive margins. Here in HK, western food, not even repackaged (talking Waitrose bacon here) costs literally 4x what it costs in the UK. That’s 7 quid mark up on a pack of bacon.. You could literally pay for your flight to HK by packing your luggage with bacon…

  20. “I suspect that one of the reasons food in SIngapore I’d expensive is that, like Hong Kong, the powers that be have limited competition such that there are only a couple of supermarket chains,with massive margins”

    Partly, there is also the fact supermarkets for a long time in Singapore were mostly for ex-pats on bigger salaries, so not as price sensitive.

  21. It’s been a while since I went to Singapore but I remember eating in the hawker centers and these Indian banana leaf restaurants it was dirt cheap. Maybe because I have Singaporean relatives they know the cheap places. Drinking out is bloody expensive though.

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