Douglas Carswell

14 MAR 2017

WTO terms are an asset - not a foe

The UK should be able to strike a free-trade agreement with the EU. It is in our mutual interests to do so. However, if we cannot reach a good deal, the World Trade Organisation helps us ensure workable terms of trade even if we walk away.

Some MPs seem to think that trading under WTO terms is tantamount to isolation or protectionism. It appears to escape their notice that the precise purpose of the WTO is to facilitate trade.

Under the most-favoured-nation principle, the EU would not be able to discriminate against UK goods with extortionate tariffs even if it wanted to.

As to non-tariff barriers, remember all British companies already comply with single-market regulations and standards by default – unlike those of any other country that trades with the EU on WTO terms.

Imports, meanwhile, would be entirely at our discretion. We could not only set tariffs as low as we want, but also unilaterally allow any product manufactured to EU standards to be sold here – thereby keeping the compliance costs passed on to UK consumers as low as possible.

Those MPs who claim any deal with the EU is better than no deal are being disingenuous about what a bad deal would mean.

An agreement that failed to restore our sovereignty, or our control over our borders and fishing waters, or our freedom to determine our own regulatory environment, or our ability to sign free-trade deals with other – growing – economies beyond Europe is an agreement we cannot accept. Acquiescence would be not only counter to our economic interest, but anti-democratic.

Those who want the government to rule out trading with the EU on WTO terms are, in effect, attempting to rule out Brexit. They are seeking to give the EU sole discretion over our terms of exit – which would mean never leaving.

But Brexit is happening. Parliament has – finally – voted for it. There is every reason to believe we will sign mutually beneficial trading deal with the EU. Yet, whatever the outcome of negotiations, we must all now adapt to a new reality.

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