February 6, 2019 / 11:52 AM / 9 months ago

UK's Fox says does not support zero tariffs if no Brexit deal

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox arrives in Downing Street in London, Britain January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Trade minister Liam Fox said on Wednesday he did not support the idea of slashing tariffs on all imports to zero if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal.

British media has reported Fox was considering the move to keep prices low for consumers in the event of a no-deal exit on March 29. Under World Trade Organization rules, Britain would have to apply the same policy to both the EU and the rest of the world.

“I have not suggested the concept of zero tariffs,” Fox said when asked by members of parliament from parliament’s trade committee about the reports. “Unilateral liberalisation is not what I would propose and I have not actually heard anyone else in government propose it.”

But asked to rule out zero tariffs as an option, Fox said it was not within his power to do so as it was a collective government decision.

He said there was a range of options being discussed and that the government would make a decision soon and publish it.

Fox said he was well aware of the risks of zero tariffs for industries such as agriculture and ceramics, and said the government would balance the impact on consumers and producers in making its decision.

“The government is very clear that it needs to give protection where necessary but without becoming protectionist,” he said.

Business minister Greg Clark told a different committee on Wednesday that Britain would need to maintain trade defences for some industries.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, editing by Elizabeth Piper

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