I attended an interesting seminar yesterday on the practicalities of Britain operating under the WTO principles and rules post Brexit at Essex Court Chambers.

There were presentations from Isabelle Van Damme, of the Chambers of Advocate-General Sharpston, Court of Justice of the EU, Professor Dan Sarooshi and Hugh Mercer QC, and Jane Russell, all of Essex Court Chambers.

What emerged was a far more complex picture than (inevitably) presented by the press and the Brexiteers.

The basic issue is that whilst Britain is a member of the WTO, it is “silent” and all agreements are done via the EU. The crux of this is that every party operates by a series of “schedules” which set out the tariff structures and in particular the volume of goods or services to which it related. The EU one under which the UK operates uses trading figures for the whole of the EU – so for example wheat imports and the associated duties relate to total trading for the whole bloc.

The Uruguay round which set up the last major framework took 7 years, but it involved all the major trading blocs in the world. https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/tif_e/fact5_e.htm

The Doha Round started in 2001, and is still ongoing. Any change to individual schedules may have to be approved by all members. There are 164 members of the WTO, so this will be worse than agreeing with an EU 27.

So, the idea that we “fall back” on WTO rules in the event of hard Brexit really doesn’t fix anything in the short term. Another “alternative truth” from the Brexiteers.

By Published On: January 11, 2017Categories: News