Cabinet split over slashing food tariffs to ease cost-of-living crisis

Cabinet split over plan to slash food tariffs to ease cost-of-living crisis as Anne-Marie Trevelyan ‘warns Britain would lose leverage in trade talks’

  • Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg pushing for cuts to tariffs on some foods
  • Move is intended to help families struggling to copy with cost-of-living crisis
  • Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said to fear losing leverage in trade talks 

A Cabinet rift emerged today over plans to slash food tariffs to ease the cost-of-living crisis.

Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg are believed to be backing proposals to reduce levies on imports that are not produced in the UK, such as rice.

The move is on the table as part of efforts to help hard-pressed families, after spiking inflation saw grocery prices soar 5.9 per cent in the past year.

However, Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan is reportedly resisting after raising concerns that it would undermine Britain’s position in negotiating deals with other countries.

Her department is said to have been burned by a previous suggestion that tariffs on EU imports should be unilaterally dropped after Brexit.

That led to Canada warning it would abandon trade talks because the UK was giving other partners better terms. 

One official told the Financial Times: ‘The Department of International Trade aren’t fans.’  


Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg (right) are believed to be backing proposals to reduce levies on imports that are not produced in the UK, such as rice. However, Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan (left) is reportedly resisting after raising concerns that it would undermine Britain’s position in negotiating deals with other countries

Mr Johnson gathered his Cabinet yesterday to thrash out ways of addressing the cost of living

The pressure on Britons was highlighted this week with figures showing a quarter are struggling to pay routine bills.

Market research firm Kantar has estimated that the rise in food prices over the past year is equivalent to an annual £271 for the average household. That is the biggest increase since December 2011. 

Mr Johnson gathered his Cabinet yesterday to thrash out ways of addressing the cost of living, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak has made clear there will be no immediate extra spending as he scrambled to stabilise the government finances. 

Proposals under consideration include reducing childcare costs by increasing the number of children each staff member at a nursery can look after, as well as encouraging parents to use their entitlement to some free childcare.

The supermarket ban on buy-one-get-one-free junk food offers could be delayed and tariffs could be cut on food that cannot be produced in the UK, such as rice.

But it is understood policing minister Kit Malthouse suggested to his colleagues that lowering taxes was the best way they could help voters.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is minister for government efficiency, agreed and argued that the net zero carbon emissions target should be overhauled.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng hit back, saying that the environmental drive could actually save people money.

After the spat became public he defended the policy on Twitter, writing: ‘Nuclear and renewables are cheaper than burning gas…’

Mr Johnson will decide which proposals will get the go-ahead at a domestic and economic strategy committee meeting due to be held within the next fortnight.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said it is right that Cabinet ‘thrashes through’ ideas to tackle the rising cost of living.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng defended the government’s Net Zero drive at the Cabinet meeting yesterday

He told 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.’

He said he would not get into precise details of the meeting because of collective responsibility.

‘But what I would say is, in fairness, it’s quite right that Cabinet discusses, thrashes through, these ideas and the subcommittees of Cabinet do,’ he said.

‘I think… people expect us to test our policies very carefully, to thrash them through, and keep coming up with new ways to ease the pressure’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he wants to see ‘an emergency budget, not a Cabinet meeting’ to address the cost of living crisis

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