EU Referendum

UK 'wouldn't face trade tariffs outside EU' - Carswell

Containers, Port of Felixstowe

Britain would not face tariffs on trade if it voted to leave the EU on 23 June, UKIP MP and Vote Leave campaigner Douglas Carswell has suggested.

Mr Carswell said Turkey and Iceland had "unrestricted, tariff-free trade" even though they were not in the EU.

There was "no question" the UK, as the world's fifth largest economy, would face worse trade terms, he said.

The Remain side say quitting the EU and its single market would hit the UK economy, and cost jobs.

Meanwhile, Vote Leave pointed to a letter sent by JCB chairman Lord Bamford to all his employees, making the case for a Leave vote and saying the UK can "prosper just as much outside the EU".

He said there was "very little to fear" from a Brexit and that JCB would "continue to trade with Europe, irrespective of whether we remain in or leave the EU".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today, Mr Carswell, UKIP's only MP, also said it was important to "use the right tone" on immigration.

Mr Carswell, who unlike party leader Nigel Farage is part of the official Vote Leave campaign, said it was important to acknowledge concerns about the strain on public services from immigration, but also to recognise it was "eminently admirable" for people to travel around the world to seek a better life.

With his remarks he appeared to distance himself from comments by Mr Farage, who on Tuesday was forced to reject a claim from the Archbishop of Canterbury that he had been "giving legitimisation to racism".

There are just over two weeks to go until the UK decides on its future in the European Union, in an in-out referendum on 23 June.

'No question'

On the economy - one of the key battlegrounds in the referendum debate - Mr Carswell insisted the UK could get a better trade deal if it was outside the EU.

"If we were to leave the EU we would start from the position of tariff-free unrestricted trade and we could certainly build on that and improve on that, not least by having free trade agreements with the rest of the world," he said.

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Mr Farage has said "no deal" on trade "is better than the rotten deal we have got at the moment". Asked if he agreed, Mr Carswell said there was "no question whatsoever of us facing tariffs" if the UK voted to leave.

He said the UK had a £60bn trade deficit - the gap between UK imports and exports with the EU - and that every European country apart from Belarus enjoyed tariff-free trade with the bloc.

Mr Carswell added: "Turkey and Iceland aren't in the EU. They have unrestricted, tariff-free trade. Do you imagine that as the fifth largest economy in the world we would get worse trade terms outside the EU than Turkey does?

"Of course we wouldn't. I simply don't accept that we would face restraints and tariffs. We wouldn't."

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is campaigning for a Remain vote, has said there is "a growing consensus that leaving the EU would put jobs at risk and shrink the economy".

He has accused the rival Leave campaign of lacking economic credibility and said they have showed "complacency and nonchalance" in their response to economists' warnings about the potential impact of a vote to leave.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Unlike leader Nigel Farage, Douglas Carswell is part of the official Vote Leave campaign

Pressed over Mr Farage's warnings about sex attacks of the type seen in Cologne - which the UKIP leader was challenged over during Tuesday's ITV referendum debate - Mr Carswell said: "I believe if you are talking about migration or immigration you need to, as the audience reminded us, use the right tone".

He said people had legitimate concerns about the strain immigration puts on public services but said it was also important to "recognise that people who travel halfway across the planet in search of a better life are doing something that is eminently admirable".

"But we need to control it", he added, and argued this was not possible while being a member of the EU - saying David Cameron had failed to meet his promise to get net migration below 100,000.

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He said that outside the EU the UK would get back control of its border and be able to introduce an Australian-style points-based system to ensure a "fair" immigration system.

Britain currently has a points-based immigration system for people coming to work in the UK from outside the EU.

Leave campaigners want to extend this system to cover EU migrants, who are currently free to come to the UK and take up jobs, including low-paid manual work - but it would be up to the government of the day to decide whether to adopt this policy.

Asked if such a system would reduce migration of the UK, Mr Carswell said it would be up to the UK Parliament to set the level.

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