Michael Gove admits government considering plans to ‘rebalance’ UK economy after Brexit with tariffs on EU products

Top Brexit negotiator David Frost and cabinet minister Michael Gove; ParliamentLive

Top Brexit negotiator David Frost and cabinet minister Michael Gove; ParliamentLive - Credit: Archant

Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said the government will consider slapping tariffs on EU goods as a form of 'economic rational' to stop a trade deficit with the bloc after Brexit.

Gove and chief Brexit negotiator David Frost told a Lords EU committee that the UK would put tariffs on EU products entering the country.

Both men had been called in front of peers to answer questions on Brexit trade talks when the Baron of Kinlochard, Lord Kerr, asked Gove: 'You would be putting tariffs on the country which is the largest exporter to us. A large number of goods sold in the UK would be carrying a tariff. Would they be more expensive?'

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'Ah, yes,' Gove replied before saying they would affect EU producers more the UK.

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'It's well known the EU has a surplus in trade in goods with the UK. Some argue that if you are a deficit country when it comes to goods then it is economic rational to have tariffs,' he said before retreating from the comment.

Lord Kerr had earlier asked why ministers had taken a 'big step back' on claims to keep UK-EU trade tariff-free.

'Mr Johnson said 'humanity needs the UK to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and play Superman. This supercharged champion of free trade'', he said.

'In that spirit, you, Mr Gove, would say that there was definitely no deal with the 27. We've put no tariffs on our imports from them and challenge them to do the same.

'You don't seem to be saying that now. We've seemed to have ditched the Superman cape and published World Trade Organization tariff plans.

'Do you now agree that no-deal with the world's largest free trade area would mean these tariffs... wouldn't they be quite a big step back from free trade?'

Gove said the prime minister made those comments in light of fears that countries around the world would retreat to protectionist policies because of the coronavirus outbreak.

'It is the case of course that Covid-19 has exposed the fact there may be an over-reliance in some areas on some markets so what we need to do is have even greater diversification,' Gove responded.

He then said the UK was working on simplifying custom and trade protocols with the EU.

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