Tate & Lyle has long complained about the “prohibitively high” import tariffs the European Union imposes on foreign-grown sugar cane – with senior Vice-President Gerald Mason hailing the opportunities Brexit offers the company.
Mr Mason argued that leaving the EU will put an end to the cheques the sugar-refinery business has to pay to Brussels before being allowed to sell its products.
He said: “On some of the ships we buy, we face a tariff of around 35 percent.
“The ship will arrive here at the dock in East London and as we are unloading it, before we are allowed to sell the sugar in the market to consumers, we have to send a cheque of around €3 million to Brussels.”
Tate & Lyle has been operating from the London East End since 1921 before coming under threat when Britain joined the European Economic Community – the precursor of the EU which began to impose strict quotas on the company.
Britain agreed to abide by European rules on imported raw materials when it joined the bloc in 1973 but has found itself struggling against the competition as Brussels favoured European sugar beet growers.
Tate & Lyle‘s London refinery uses imported sugar cane.
Mr Mason told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that scrapping the tariffs would not only benefit his company but also consumers – an idea backed by economist Patrick Minford.
Prof Minford, an advocate for cutting EU tariffs, said: “We will import from the rest of the world food and manufacture at world prices.
“They will be 20 percent cheaper than they are today inside the EU.”
Insiders claimed the EU plans to bully Britain by ensuring Europe – and Europe’s trading partners – have unfettered access to UK markets while potentially denying or restricting access for British exports with tariffs.
The position presents a potential issue for UK-based companies, such as Jaguar Land Rover, whose exports are required to have 55 percent “Made in EU” content in order to qualify for low-tariff deals under the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement .
The Commission’s approach also risks negatively impacting European businesses who export products with UK content.
A UK source with knowledge of the negotiations blasted the Commission’s approach as “typically legalistic”.