London and Brussels press ahead with proposal already rejected by US and other World Trade Organisation members.
Britain and the EU have formally informed members of the World Trade Organisation how they plan to split up the EU’s tariff quotas and farm subsidies after Brexit in a plan already rejected by the White House.
In a joint letter, the two parties, who are involved in intense negotiations over Britain’s departure from the EU, said they had come to an agreement on a key aspect of trading relationships with the rest of the world after Brexit.
Under WTO rules, country-specific quotas permit low-tariff imports, such as butter and meat, up to a certain volume, after which higher tariffs can be applied. The joint plan suggests the EU’s existing agricultural quota commitments will be “apportioned” based on historical trade flows, and the current ceilings on support for farmers will be maintained.
After a leak of the letter this month, however, the UK has been told that the arrangement is unacceptable to the US and other WTO members who wish to force the UK to open its market further to their farm products.
The UK’s international trade secretary, Liam Fox, said in a statement to coincide with the joint letter: “Our agreed collaborative approach shows real progress on how UK government intends to take forward our future trading arrangements with the world.
“To ensure a smooth transition which minimises disruption to our trading relationships with other WTO members, the UK intends to replicate as far as possible its obligations under the current commitments of the EU.
“This is the start of our open and constructive engagement with the WTO membership and sets out our intentions regarding EU quotas to forge ahead and establish the UK as an independent WTO member.”
The White House and others say the method the UK and the EU propose is unfair, because it would allow them to reduce their obligations as WTO members.
“Such an outcome would not be consistent with the principle of leaving other [WTO] members no worse off, nor fully honour the existing TRQ access commitments. Thus, we cannot accept such an agreement,” the countries wrote in a letter published in response to the leak.
The UK was a founding member of the WTO, but its membership obligations have been managed by the EU until now.