Digby Jones: The EU and Germany NEED tariff-free trading with Britain
Business secretary Greg Clarke was keen to set aside Brexit concerns and convince carmakers the UK is seeking a tariff-free trade deal.
The Conservative MP said he wrote to Nissan with a series of four assurances as he went “all out” to convince the company to build its next two models in Sunderland amid the uncertainty of Brexit.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, he said: “Our intention, our negotiating remit, when it comes to the discussions with our European partners is to have a constructive dialogue and look for common interest here.
“Our objective would be to ensure we have continued access to the markets in Europe and vice versa without tariffs and bureaucratic impediments, and that is how we will approach these negotiations.”
This was seen my many as the first glimpse of the Government’s plans for exiting the bloc, after Theresa May insisted there would be no “running commentary” on the process.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said he saw no comparison between any Brexit trade deal and the recently negotiated landmark EU-Canada deal CETA.
Asked what the timeline for Canada’s agreement with the bloc meant for Brexit talks, Mr Juncker said: “I don’t see any relation between what we are signing today and the Brexit issue.”
Mr Juncker’s comments stoked fears Britain may be forced to pay World Trade Organisation tariffs or even remain in the EU until a deal is in place with its 163 members.
But Lord Jones, the former CBI chair, said German car manufactures would instantly challenge Mrs Merkel at any sign of a tariff being implemented between the EU and UK.
He blasted: “Germany sells a million cars a year in Britain, so the first time that this Frenchman who’s going to be negotiating for Brussels, says well we’re going to be a 10 per cent tariff on every Jaguar that’s sold in Berlin.
“I sincerely hope the Brit doing it the other way will say well then there’s 10 per cent on every BMW sold in Britain.
“The moment that happens – every Audi, and every Mercedes and every Fiat. So you say well I’m sticking a 10 per cent tariff on every Focus that’s made in Valencia and sold in Birmingham, I sincerely hope that the boss of Ford, I know I’m right, the boss of Audi, the boss of Mercedes – [go] straight to [Angel] Merkel saying what are you doing?
“I think it’ll be zero tariff – not because Britain wants it but because it’s in no one’s interest that it doesn’t happen.”