Why it’s a mistake to talk about a ‘Swiss-style’ post-Brexit UK-EU deal

We struggle to grasp unfamiliar detail and nuance. So we invent labels and waste time and energy debating what they mean

By Peter Ungphakorn

Maybe it was because someone thought it would be a good idea to stick a label on where UK-EU relations might be heading now that the atmosphere between the two is widely reported to have improved. Or perhaps it was just because people were bored while waiting for the football World Cup to start.

Whatever the reason, “Swiss-style ties with Brussels” suddenly became big news over the weekend after the Sunday Times reported (November 20, 2022, paywalled, but some more detail here) that the British government is considering exactly that.

Reactions ranged from “Doubt it. EU hates its relationship with Switzerland & Switzerland hates its relationship with EU” (Mujtaba Rahman, here), to “when someone says ‘Swiss-style’ relationship, rather than hearing ‘a slightly better relationship [than] now’ everyone is like ‘LET ME GET MY NOTES’” (Sam Lowe, here).

The problem here is that “Swiss-style” is being used as shorthand. It’s a label, but one that’s misleading and not really explained. Both of the reactions above are valid, at least to some extent, but they are talking about different things.

Continue reading “Why it’s a mistake to talk about a ‘Swiss-style’ post-Brexit UK-EU deal”

Oranges: a litmus test of UK post-Brexit tariff negotiations

The UK currently charges complex import duties on oranges thanks to the EU. Will they survive Brexit? And will other countries want a say? Exploring post-Brexit tariffs: part 3

By Peter Ungphakorn

1. The goods schedule for the EU’s enlargement in 2004 to 25 members (EU–25) was certified and circulated in December 2016. For oranges, the tariffs and tariff quota are unchanged. Details are here

2. Some of the EU’s import duties on oranges from South Afirca are being eliminaged gradually under the EU-Sothern African Development Community(SADC ) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which took effect from October 10, 2016. The details are pretty complicated. It has already scrapped duty on imports in the period June 1 to October 15. Over nine years the duty-free period is being exended by six weeks to 30 November but apparently starting from 16%. During the Mediterranean harvest period imports are still charged duty, although from April 1 to May 31 it seems to be 12%. See this press release, and the full text of the agreement including tariff reductions (pdf).

The UK can easily adopt the EU’s customs duties as its own after Brexit. That’s a common assumption, and for most of the thousands of traded products it’s likely to be true, both for the actual duties charged and for the commitments the UK will re-establish in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

But with many other products the UK might find that simply carrying on with the EU’s duty rates is not so easy, particularly in agriculture. A lot depends on how other countries react. Oranges are as good an indicator of their possible reactions as any other product. Continue reading “Oranges: a litmus test of UK post-Brexit tariff negotiations”