IF the UK manages to secure free-trade agreements with around 150 countries, there will be many UK products that cannot compete with similar products from other countries. Here’s why.

The EU has free-trade agreements either in place or awaiting full ratification with over 80 countries. It has over 40 further agreements either pending or under negotiation.

Under those agreements, when an EU country exports to one of these countries (e.g. South Korea), it will only be able to export without tariffs being applied if the product being exported is at least 55 per cent 'made in the EU'.

The UK currently benefits from these agreements (even if the product is not at least 55 per cent made in the UK) but will lose them unless it successfully negotiates with each of the countries to roll those free-trade agreements over for the UK after Brexit (if it happens).

Even if the UK were to succeed with such roll-over, it will not be able to benefit from the free-trade deals for exports unless it can meet the requirement for at least 55 per cent of the product being exported to be 'made in the UK'. This is extremely unlikely for a significant number of UK exports as many products rely on imports totalling more than 45 per cent from other countries (including the EU).

For example, the BMW Mini Hatch/Hardtop, Clubman, Coupe and Roadster are all assembled in Oxford. However, many parts are sourced from Germany, France and Spain. It will thus be impossible in the short-medium term for those cars to be labelled as 'made in the UK'. This could affect local companies such as Sunseeker.

Thus, even if the UK manages to secure free-trade agreements with the 27 EU countries and over 120 others (and that's not easy), there will be many products that simply cannot be exported under such agreements without tariffs. Such UK products will be less competitive than others that meet the 55 per cent 'made in' requirement.

Clearly, even if Brexit were to happen with free-trade agreements with over 147 countries, our exports and our economic future would still be in jeopardy.

If we go through any significant period without free-trade agreements in place, UK consumers will pay tariffs on many imported goods and, as we import significantly more than we export, this will cost UK consumers more than the net annual cost of our EU membership.

There can only be one conclusion: Brexit will not be good for the UK. Don’t let it happen.


Beaufoys Avenue, Ferndown