Gerald Mason, senior vice president at Tate & Lyle Sugars, has slated Nick Clegg’s prediction of high food prices following Brexit, saying ‘he hoped the EU debate was moving on to a sensible, technical level’.
Writing in The Grocer, Mr Mason said the idea of ultra-high World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs being applied to food and drink imports when the UK leaves the EU was ‘simply wrong’ and the WTO’s aim is to encourage trade, not stop it.
“Exiting the EU customs union actually gives the UK Government the choice over setting import tariffs, and ends the requirement for them to apply prohibitively high EU tariffs. The UK Government may inherit the right to apply the EU’s prohibitively high tariffs, but it certainly would not have an obligation”, he added.
He went on to say UK food manufacturers are forced to buy imports from the EU or countries the EU has done a free trade agreement with because they cannot buy from anybody else without paying the ‘massive EU tariff’.
Tariff-free suppliers were criticised by Mr Mason for increasing their prices, knowing the only other choice for food manufacturers is to buy from suppliers who do face tariffs. He claimed this practice had added €40 million to Tate and Lyle’s raw material bill last year.
“Having a choice for the first time over if we apply a tariff, and what that tariff should be, actually gives us a chance to make a real and positive difference to the choice of food and drink available to consumers in the UK and the price they pay for it”, he added.