Brexit tariff warning issued to UK Government

Tariffs on meat imports would put “another burden” on British consumers

Ahead of Britain’s impending exit from the EU, lobby group Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said that unilateral tariff liberalisation on agricultural products was vital for making consumers better off and suggested that the UK’s potential gains from trade after Brexit could outweigh the costs.

Maria Chaplia, media associate at CCC, said imposing tariffs on meat imports would not only put another burden on British consumers but would also increase the costs of Brexit and send a signal to the rest of the world that post-Brexit Britain would “pursue protectionism ahead of consumer interests”​.

“Along with fish, oil, and fats, meat is one of the few agricultural products exported by the UK. The abolishment of tariffs would have a significant positive impact on low-income households. More specifically, if the UK removes tariffs on meat, the price will decrease by 3.2% as a consequence of a higher supply,”​ said Chaplia.

She added that the UK Government had a decision to make when it came to which industry it was acting in favour of.

“The UK is a net importer of beef and unilateral liberalisation would have a considerable impact on the domestic market. Opening up the UK market will challenge the meat industry to compete with the rest of the world, which is what the Government seeks to protect it from. What is surprising is why the UK Government is turning a blind eye to the potential gains for consumers.

“In terms of the UK’s gains from trade after Brexit, unilateral liberalisation on agricultural products is a clincher. A no-deal Brexit would cost the UK 2.2% of GDP by 2030. However, unilateral liberalisation would help compensate up to 80% per cent of that reduction in real GDP. Before resorting to protectionism, the UK Government should consider whether it is the interests of one industry or the long-term benefits for all that matter more.”

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Consumers slam government plans for tariffs on food imports

FARMERS WEEKLY: This has drawn stinging criticism from consumer group Consumer Choice Centre.

“Imposing tariffs on meat imports will not only put another burden on British consumers, but will also increase the costs of Brexit and send a signal to the rest of the world that post-Brexit Britain will pursue protectionism ahead of consumer interests,” said spokeswoman Maria Chaplia.

Abolishing tariffs would help lower the price of meat by more than 3%, and encourage the meat industry to compete with the rest of the world, she added.

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Irish farmers voice fears over Brexit tariffs

The pro-free trade Consumer Choice Centre said tariffs would “put another burden on British consumers” and increase the costs of Brexit.

‘Protectionism’

It would send a signal to the rest of the world that post-Brexit Britain would pursue protectionism ahead of consumer interests, it claimed.

Consumer Choice Centre spokeswoman Maria Chaplia said: “Free trade is vital for consumer choice as it allows consumers to enjoy a greater variety of products at a lower cost.

“Interventions in the form of tariffs, non-tariff barriers or quotas hit consumers the hardest, and therefore should be avoided or decreased at all costs,” said Ms Chaplia.

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Tariffs impact every part of the food chain

The FDF’s comments were in response to a report by activist group the Consumer Choice Centre (CCC), which claimed imposing tariffs on food would send a signal to the rest of the world that post-Brexit Britain would pursue protectionism ahead of consumer interests.

Maria Chaplia, media associate at the CCC, said: “Free trade is vital for consumer choice as it allows consumers to enjoy a greater variety of products at a lower cost. Interventions in the form of tariffs, non-tariff barriers or quotas hit consumers the hardest, and, therefore, should be avoided or decreased at all costs.”

Liberalisation 

Chaplia went on to suggest a system of unilateral liberalisation – reduction or elimination of government regulations or restrictions on private business and trade – could counter a 2.2% dip in GDP by 2030, should the UK leave without a deal.

“Much of the UK’s post-Brexit success will mainly depend on the UK’s ability to develop a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU, abolish import tariffs on agriculture, and build FTAs with other countries by embracing openness, deregulation and trade liberalisation and, conversely, neutralise and potentially even exceed the Brexit costs,”*​ she added.

“If Brexit comes with tariffs on food, a small group of people, British farmers, will win while every British consumer will lose.”

International consumer group urges UK to rein in on tariff threat

An international consumer group has urged the UK to either abolish tariffs or keep them low in order to look after British consumers post Brexit.

Responding to the disagreements in the British Cabinet on post-Brexit food tariffs, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) has emphasised the importance of trade liberalisation for keeping consumers in a strong position after Brexit.

UK’s potential gains from trade after Brexit “can outweigh the costs”, the CCC’s newest report finds.

Maria Chaplia, media associate at the Consumer Choice Center, said: “Imposing any tariffs on food will not only put another burden on British consumers and increase the costs of Brexit but will also send a signal to the rest of the world that post-Brexit Britain will pursue protectionism ahead of consumer interests.

Free trade is vital for consumer choice as it allows consumers to enjoy a greater variety of products at a lower cost.

“Interventions in the form of tariffs, non-tariff barriers or quotas hit consumers the hardest, and, therefore, should be avoided or decreased at all costs,” said Chaplia.

The CCC representative warned that leaving the EU without a deal would cost the UK 2.2% of GDP by 2030.

“However, unilateral liberalisation would help compensate up to 80% of that reduction in real GDP.

Therefore, it is key that after Brexit the UK either fully abolishes its tariffs on food, or keeps them low.

“Much of the UK’s post-Brexit success will mainly depend on the UK’s ability to develop a comprehensive FTA [free trade agreement] with the EU, abolish import tariffs on agriculture, and build FTAs with other countries by embracing openness, deregulation and trade liberalisation and, conversely, neutralise and potentially even exceed the Brexit costs.

“If Brexit comes with tariffs on food, a small group of people, British farmers, will win while every British consumer will lose,” concluded Chaplia.

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DEBATE: Should we slash post-Brexit tariffs on food imports to offer consumers cheaper goods?

Should we slash post-Brexit tariffs on food imports to offer consumers cheaper goods?

Bill Wirtz, policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center, says YES.

Contrary what the protectionists will tell you, tariffs don’t only hurt the country upon which they are imposed.

If the government decides to maintain import tariffs on food post-Brexit, it is British consumers who will foot the bill for these duties in the form of higher prices. This is particularly devastating for low-income households, which spend the largest proportion of their income on food.

The UK should remember its bad experiences with tariffs on food. History buffs will recall the 19th-century corn laws, which were introduced to protect local producers against corn from France or Germany. The result of this isolated trade policy quickly became visible: while the British producers profited, the price of grain exploded in the 1830s.

The same economic principles apply today.

Remainers and Brexiteers alike should make it their mission to offer cheaper food and more choices to the British consumer. Tariffs just help farmers, whereas free trade benefits everyone.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Calorie caps or consumer choice?

Now that we’re well-into February, many of us are giving up on our January goals of cutting down on booze, saving money, learning Sanskrit, or whatever else we planned to finally do in 2019. There’s always next year! If your new year’s resolution was to finally get in shape, then you’re in luck; the government is planning to make sure you stick to your new diet with an iron fist.

Of course, many will not find this particularly surprisingly. We’ve often seen campaigns and drives to get people exercising or to promote healthy eating (the NHS’s Change4Life adverts remain fully ingrained into my childhood memories). Yet, it seems as though the state has tired of the let’s-get-busy, Richard Simmons-esque approach to combating obesity, and is now taking more-draconian route to force you to eat healthy. 

On Christmas Day, The Telegraph revealed the contents of draft legislation which would impose a ‘calorie cap’ on food bought in supermarkets and restaurants. Packaged sandwiches could not exceed 550 calories. Ready meals could not exceed 544 calories. Takeaway restaurants would have to ensure they didn’t sell you a pizza exceeding 1040 calories. 

Currently, many such food items would stand in violation of the proposed caps. In fact, many critics of the proposed caps are concerned that it might not even be feasible for many food items to meet the new requirements. Some, such as Christopher Snowdon of the IEA, have questioned the logic behind the cap limits, calling them “arbitrary, unscientific, and unrealistic”.

Indeed, it’s difficult to fully understand why PHE have decided on this route, let alone how they arrived at the figures used in the caps. As my colleague Bill Wirtz points out in a statement on the proposal, Britain’s obesity problem is far more an issue of underactivity, rather than too much energy intake. In fact, caloric consumption has actually decreased for the average Brit over the past decades.

Thus far, it would seem that the proposed cap is unnecessary and potentially unfeasible. Meanwhile, consumers will have to shoulder much of the burden for a heavy-handed measure that promises little results. 

After all, there’s a strong relationship between good-tasting food and a high caloric content. When we eat unhealthy food, for the most part, we do so in the knowledge that we’re being a bit naughty. We willfully discount the negative effects on our health in favour of the pleasure it brings us when we order a takeaway or go out for a meal. Ultimately, this a decision that we should be allowed to make for ourselves; should we not be trusted to choose for ourselves what we consume? 

Imposing a calorie cap as per PHE’s suggestion will simply cause restaurateurs and those in the food industry a headache, limit the choice of British consumers, and ultimately make our dining experience a lot more miserable. 

Sadly, however, such a decision is fairly par for the course. Just a few months ago I wrote on a proposal to ban ‘freakshakes’ – milkshakes adorned with copious amounts of sauce, cakes, biscuits, or other sugary treats. As I argued then, the state’s role in public health is not to protect us from ourselves. As free adults, we should enjoy the right to decide to what we eat, regardless of its good for us. 

If the government wishes to take an interest in fighting the obesity problem in Britain, it should do so without limiting our choices or bodily autonomy. It should be a case of informing people of the dangers of frequent unhealthy eating, and promoting active lifestyles. To outright impose a limit on how caloric our food can be sends the message that Brits just can’t be trusted to look after their bodies without nanny telling us how many rusks we’re allowed. 

Let’s not allow 2019 to become yet another year of handing over personal responsibilities to the state. Ultimately, a cap on calories as proposed by PHE seems neither well-thought out, with so many in the food industry questioning its feasibility,  nor respectful of our freedom to choose. 

Brits deserve the right to decide how and what they eat, regardless of how healthy or unhealthy it’s been deemed. Let’s make 2019 the year we stop letting the government make our orders for us, and choose from the menu ourselves. It is, after all, the year of the pig!

UK supermarket meals could face calorie limits to combat obesity

Bill Wirtz, policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The intentions of PHE are understandable, but rectifying the bad nutritional habits and lack of exercise of some with outright bans for others is just blatantly unfair.”

He added: “Nobody is denying that we could all lose weight by only living on water and crispbread, but being a free society means being able to enjoy a pizza, a burger or an ice cream when you like. Educating rather than banning should be our aim.

“Ultimately it’s the government that needs to make the decisions regarding these proposed bans on food items. Even a simple execution of PHE’s recommendations would be [a] clear message that this government does not believe in informed and responsible consumers.”

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

CCC calls calorie limits ‘a major threat to consumer choice’

PACKAGING NEWS: Bill Wirtz, policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said that the UK government needs to step in. “The intentions of PHE are understandable, but rectifying the bad nutritional habits and lack of exercise of some with outright bans for others is just blatantly unfair,” said Wirtz.

“In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. It’s exercise many people are lacking.

“Nobody is denying that we could all lose weight by only living on water and crispbread, but being a free society means being able to enjoy a pizza, a burger or an ice-cream when you like. Educating rather than banning should be our aim.

“Ultimately it’s the government that needs to make the decisions regarding these proposed bans on food items. Even a simple execution of PHE’s recommendations would be clear message that this government does not believe in informed and responsible consumers. We’ll take notes,” said Wirtz

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

We can fight climate change without hurting consumers

If you haven’t clocked that we’ve really got it wrong on the environment, you must have been living under a rock.

In the last ten years, we have produced more plastic than we did in the last century – and we only recover 5% of the plastic we currently use. Hurricanes, droughts and coral deaths are caused by climate change. Climate change enhances the spread of life-threatening diseases like malaria and dengue fever.

But as fears of climate change grow, backlash against governments which are making lives harder for working people grows too. The so-called Gilets Jaunes (yellow-jackets) in France have won a concession from President Emmanuel Macron, forcing the self-described ‘Jupiterean’ leader to reverse his plans to hike fuel duty.

The Spectator ran articles entitled, ‘Macron has United France Against Him’ and ‘In Praise of the Gilets Jaunes.’ For hard-working French families, who already spend a huge proportion of their monthly income on commuting between rural areas and cities, a hike in the price of fuel was clearly deeply unwelcome.

Environmentalism may be becoming a bigger priority for people, but the cost of living will always come first. And, as we’ve seen in France, voters turn their backs on governments which give disproportionate focus to climate change at the expense of hard-working people.

We need to improve our track record on climate change, that much is certain. But this doesn’t mean we have to neglect consumers and taxpayers. In plenty of cases, we’re seeing improvements made in areas like plastic and palm oil from socially aware multinationals. We’re seeing start-up companies providing environmentally-friendly options for the socially responsible consumer. Even the small, country pub where I work has ditched plastic straws for bio-degradable and paper equivalents. On a larger scale, Tesco’s has begun to make the move to mushroom punnets over plastic options.

The war on plastic, while not the most pressing concern for climate change, is proof that the private sector, in a socially responsible world, can and will make environmentally friendly moves without government coercion – and without forcing money from the pockets of the consumer.

We can look to our friends for direction This week, the Danish government unveiled its new plastic strategy. The plan mainly centres around the Government setting itself standards on plastic, recycling, and cutting down consumption.

This flies in the face of Britain’s efforts – which have so far involved flirting with taxes on plastic and banning items which don’t majorly contribute to climate change, while insisting on making life harder for consumers in other ways. In the past few months alone, Beer Duty hikes, Fuel Duty unfreezing, and Meat Taxes have received monumental public backlash, and several targeted campaigns against them are currently in progress.

A recent ComRes poll found that, post-Brexit, two-thirds of voters want a pro-business, low-tax economy to generate growth and protect the interests of consumers and taxpayers. As a free-market liberal, I welcome this – but it doesn’t have to mean neglecting the environment. With sensible incentives for businesses, and a free-market approach to encourage environmentally-friendly alternatives to sluggish multinationals, the government can do its bit to help the environment without making life harder for working people.

Originally published at https://www.thearticle.com/we-can-fight-climate-change-without-hurting-consumers/