Commenting on the effect of tariffs on food, Lord Rooker reminded the House that the predicted 10% rise in food prices warned by the National Security Adviser that had “scared the hell out of the Cabinet” was a realistic outcome of a 22% average increase in tariffs.
“That is a 10% increase at the checkout as a result of a no-deal,” he said. “You cannot gainsay that—the facts and the evidence are there. It is no good saying, ‘you’ve been a-scaring—it’ll be all right in time’.
“It will be all right in time for those who can afford to carry the burden in the meantime, but that is one serious problem that the National Security Adviser warned the Cabinet about.”
The House of Lords will reconvene this week to discuss the effects of imposing tariffs on UK exports to the EU and the Government’s plans not to impose tariffs on imports of most goods in a no-deal Brexit as it debates the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee’s report, Brexit: food prices and availability.
However, Lord Howarth of Newport argued that leaving the EU offered the UK a great opportunity to abolish tariffs and allow people to have the choice of cheap food if that was what they wanted to buy.
He added: “It is not Brexit that is damaging our economy at the moment, but the uncertainty associated with the Brexit process and the prolonged nature of it, which are paralysing decision-making and investment.
‘Indecision and economic paralysis’
“Those who argue for a further extension, and that is what the Bill is about, are proposing to perpetuate this period of indecision and economic paralysis.”
Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea highlighted how worryingly unprepared the UK was to leave the EU, listing a number of areas that had yet to be negotiated in the Prime Minister’s Brexit bill, including tariffs, customs, foreign policy and cyber security – to name just a few.
“We have not negotiated our future relationship,” he said. “We have negotiated only three things: people, the backstop and money. And £39 billion out of a £2 trillion economy is absolutely not material in the long run; this big figure is actually not a material figure. What about the political declaration—the wish list of our future?”