The Guardian has tried to analyse the effects of reverting to WTO tariffs on Britain's post-Brexit trade. And their sums are just fine, it's the theory that they've not managed to understand:
Crashing out of the European Union without a trade deal would saddle British exporters with more than £6bn a year of extra costs, according to analysis that reveals the limited options facing UK negotiators just weeks before Brexit talks start.
No, they do manage to avoid the mistake we're all already thinking about. Tariffs are paid by the importers of course not the exporters. But to remain competitive perhaps the exporters will have to try and trim their margins, that's possibly true. They're a bit dismissive of this argument:
Not all British manufacturers are worried. Andy Palmer, of Aston Martin, which exports heavily to the US and Asia, points to the fall in sterling as a temporary compensation for higher tariffs
Actually, standard trade theory tells us that exchange rates will permanently adjust to cope with any tariff barriers. And the fall in sterling has already been very much greater than he average level of WTO tariffs.
And this is just nonsense of course:
“People don’t seem to understand that any trade deals are years off,” said a senior civil servant in Liam Fox’s Department for International Trade. “There are 27 other countries with their own aspirations about Brexit. We cannot even start for two years.
Someone needs to find that bureaucrat, fire them and strip them of their pension rights for saying something so damn stupid. We can negotiate anything we like with whomever. We just cannot bring a treaty to fruition, into law, until we've actually left. There is absolutely nothing at all stopping us from getting everything primed so that we sign treaties with all and sundry 15 seconds after we've left the tender embrace of Brussels.
But the horrendous mistake here is this:
This mutual dependency also threatens British consumers. A WTO estimate before the referendum calculated that British consumers faced total annual tariffs on EU imports of £9bn, which could not be waived without also allowing a flood of cheap imports from the rest of the world.
A flood of cheap imports is not a problem, it's the very point of doing this trade thing in the first place. And it would make us considerably richer to have such a flood too. Patrick Minford has done the calculations and GDP would rise by 4% as a result.
Being outside the tariff walls the European Union imposes upon us is the very economic point of leaving in the first place. So that we can go back to Cobden and Bright and have the only logically valid form of trade, unilateral free trade.