Put WTO rules in the spotlight and it’s a game no one will want to play by

WTO rules

Depending who you listen to, WTO rules make global trading as simple as a game of Monopoly. Here at Ready for Brexit we keep out of the politics, we stick to the facts. And the fact is WTO rules are no simple fall back.

WTO rules, in particular, the simplified dictum that they will allow us to trade with Europe on zero tariffs until we reach a free-trade deal with the EU, is nonsense. We haven’t found a better explanation to this than this one from no less than the House of Commons Library. This is the most crucial paragraph from this explanation: “The UK could choose to apply zero tariffs to the EU unilaterally in order to keep barriers to imports from the EU low as before. However, the WTO’s Most Favoured Nation (MFN) rule prevents discrimination between WTO members. So, in this scenario, the UK would have to apply the same zero tariff to imports from all other WTO members, or else it would be in breach of the MFN rule. Moreover, the EU would not be able to reciprocate, unless it was happy to give imports from all other WTO members tariff-free access to its market.” Why would it do this?

WTO rules are the last resort that no international trader would choose to trade by. With no deal looking increasingly likely, they are, however, the terms that you need to familiarise yourself with. Visit the Customs and Tariffs section of the Ready for Brexit Directory to work out exactly what you need to do now to prepare for this eventuality. Download the latest Ready for Brexit Brexlist to create your customised checklist of Brexit tasks and use our Brexsure tool to assess how well prepared your partners are for WTO rules and other Brexit-related issues.

It’s a steep learning curve, but it’s not insurmountable.


Anna Tobin
Ready For Brexit


Anna Tobin Editor of Ready for Brexit

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