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Following the UK’s official exit from the European Union on the 31st January 2020, the Department for International Trade is preparing the UK’s first independent tariff policy in almost fifty years.

According to the Government, the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff will come into force on the 1st January 2021 and will apply to all goods imported from countries where the UK does not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in place.

The tariff structure will be known as the UK Global Tariff Regime and forms part of the Government’s preparations for the end of the transition period with the EU on the 31st December 2020.

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Currently, the UK and EU are negotiating an FTA with Prime Minister Boris Johnson confident a deal will be in place before the end of the transition period.

The new UK Global Tariff Regime will replace the EU’s common External Tariff which currently applies to imports into the UK, except those under a preferential arrangement or suspension, including developing countries that benefit under the Generalised Scheme of Preferences.

For mobility and independent living equipment suppliers importing components, parts and products from around the world, any potential change in tariff policy may have wide-reaching implications on prices and availability.

Highlighting that the new tariff structure will be designed specifically for the UK economy, the Government proposes to simplify the tariff structure, remove tariffs from key imports and remove tariffs where the UK has little or no domestic production.

Calling on businesses to take part in the consultation to share how the MFN tariff affects their operations and sector, Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade, said: “It is vitally important that we now move away from complex tariff schedule imposed on us by the European Union.

“High tariffs impinge on businesses and raise costs for consumers. This is our opportunity to set our own tariff strategy that is right for UK consumers and businesses across our country.”

The consultation will enable importers to express their needs and concerns regarding tariffs and provide feedback on specific products or commodity codes of importance to their business, including on the corresponding tariff rate.

For Northern Irish importers, the Government says the Northern Ireland/Ireland Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement details specific arrangements for the country that differs from the rest of the UK.

The MFN tariff review comes as the Government announced its goal of championing free trade around the world and at the beginning of February.

Alongside the negotiations with the EU, the Government emphasised its intentions to negotiate FTAs with the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand as a priority.

Additionally, the Department for International Trade aims to have FTAs in place with 80 per cent of the UK overseas trade by 2023.

Companies can provide their views and respond to the consultation here.

The consultation closes at 11:59pm on 5 March 2020.

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