Britain could lose $32bn in EU exports without trade deal

Updated February 26, 2020

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Britain could lose up to $32 billion annually in exports to the European Union if it fails to strike a trade deal with the bloc, UN economists said on Tuesday. — AFP/File
Britain could lose up to $32 billion annually in exports to the European Union if it fails to strike a trade deal with the bloc, UN economists said on Tuesday. — AFP/File

GENEVA: Britain could lose up to $32 billion annually in exports to the European Union if it fails to strike a trade deal with the bloc, UN economists said on Tuesday.

The UN Conference on Trade, Investment and Development (UNCTAD) said the losses would be the equivalent of 14 percent of Britain’s exports to the EU.

UNCTAD said half of the losses would come from tariffs that could be imposed by both sides and half from non-tariff measures impacting trade such as health and environmental regulations or packaging standards.

“The losses would deal a major blow to the UK’s economy, as the EU market accounts for 46 per cent of the UK’s exports,” said the study by the Geneva-based agency.

It also found a negative impact for some EU countries.

The most affected would be Ireland, which could see a 10pc cut in its exports under the no-deal scenario.

Britain left the European Union last month and has vowed to strike a deal on new trading relations with the bloc by the end of the year, saying that it will adopt much looser economic ties if there is no agreement by then.

But the UNCTAD study found that even a “standard” trade deal, such as one modelled on the EU-Canada deal advocated by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, would still see Britain’s exports to the EU fall by 9pc.

This is because standard trade deals normally concentrate more on reducing or eliminating tariffs rather than non-tariff measures and Britain has already indicated it will diverge from the EU in terms of regulation.

UNCTAD said this divergence means British producers would incur costs to meet standards when selling to the EU and there would be further costs because of customs checks. A no-deal scenario could, however, create “some opportunities” for developing countries exporting to Britain and, to a lesser extent, to the EU, the study said.

“Trade barriers between the UK and the EU would benefit suppliers from third countries. By contrast, a deal between them would preclude the incentive to turn to third countries,” it said.

It found that exports from developing countries to Britain could rise by up to 4pc, with the strongest positive impact predicted for the agriculture, food and beverages and wood and paper sectors.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020