Brexit: Lessons the UK could learn from nimble New Zealand –

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The country’s “Most Favoured Nation” (MFN) status would allow it to continue trading with other WTO members, albeit while facing tariff costs that would make UK exports less competitive. Economists at RBC Capital Markets estimate that the annual cost from higher tariffs would stand at around £7bn, while Deutsche Bank puts the figure at around £16bn.

However, given that WTO commitments were determined in 1994, when the country was already a member of the EU, hoping that a post-Brexit UK could maintain even that minimum of market access could become difficult, Renison suggests.

In the short term, however, she says, there would be no “huge change in trade flows overall, as geography and historical trade patterns are the most important drivers of the UK’s economic linkages”.

Advocates for a Brexit argue that the UK is currently unable to forge trade deals of the kind that makes commerce easy with EU members, and other key economies around the world.

Despite the successes of the EU’s negotiators with many nations, they have not been able to make much progress in dealing with China, the world’s second-largest economy, and one that could soon become the biggest on the planet.

Even without free trade deals, Renison argues that exporters can be successful: “Germany has always been better at exporting to far-flung emerging markets than the UK because of its industrial base and consumption preferences in China and India,” she says.

New Zealand, in contrast to the UK, “was the first country in the world to sign a free trade agreement with China, and the first to sponsor China into the WTO,” Richardson says. These ties have “been an unambiguous economic success for us”.

It is hard to deny, however, that forging such agreements would take a great deal of effort. Debating new terms of trade would be so complex “it is hard to see the UK Government spending much time on anything else for at least two years”, Renison says.

However, David Owen, chief European economist at the investment bank Jefferies International, argues that beneficial deals with the EU’s remaining members are an inevitability after a vote for independence.

“The UK market is too important for French, Italian and Spanish wine producers, but initially at least if the UK leaves the EU the price of wine could be significantly higher,” Owen says. The MFN tariff on wine, the lowest possible tariff a country can impose on another country, would be a staggering 32pc, he says.

Brexit: Lessons the UK could learn from nimble New Zealand –