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Cost of living: Ministers clash over plans to cut tariffs on UK imports to combat crisis – iNews

Cabinet ministers are split over whether to cut tariffs in an attempt to control the cost-of-living crisis – with the Trade Secretary sceptical that the plan would be a success.
Senior Conservatives including Jacob Rees-Mogg used a meeting on Tuesday to push for reduced tariffs on food that the UK cannot produce itself.
They said the move would cut the price of imports within the next few months, easing the pressure felt by households over the short term.
However, officials at the Department for International Trade have concluded that it would be impossible to make an impact on such a short timescale because of the technical difficulties involved in adjusting tariffs.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the International Trade Secretary, warned that unilaterally removing tariffs would weaken Britain’s negotiating position in trade talks with other countries.
She told the Commons trade committee on Wednesday: “As we do negotiations with particular countries, those are areas where for beneficial trade improvement we would consider removing tariffs in the same way as we would ask them to reduce tariffs.”
The impact of tariffs is “a tiny, tiny proportion on the cost of living, so that isn’t really where the key areas are,” Ms Trevelyan added. She insisted that striking new free-trade agreements would be a more efficient way of bringing down living costs over the long run.
A source close to the minister said that because of the complexity of tariff regimes, and the need to comply with World Trade Organisation rules, it could take months to work out which products could be eligible for a zero-tariff treatment. A change to the rules would create additional paperwork for importers because of the need to work out the tariffs on different components of their goods, they added.
At the Cabinet meeting, ministers are understood to have clashed over house prices, with Sajid Javid calling for new rules to encourage house building despite Michael Gove’s decision to kill off a proposed relaxation of planning rules.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, confirmed that changes to childcare regulation were among the ideas discussed, telling Times Radio: “What the Prime Minister and the whole Cabinet was discussing is what more we can do. And we will never rest. We will never let up beyond the existing package. What more we can do to ease the pressure.”
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