THE political party that wins the upcoming general election will have to prioritise a lasting tariff-free deal with the European Union in order to protect consumers from spiralling costs.

David Lonsdale, director of trade association the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), said negotiating a deal with the EU and the nations it has preferential trade agreements with would provide “the best outcome for Scottish consumers from the Brexit negotiations”.

“Such a deal would prevent everyday staples such as food and clothing being subject to very high import costs, which retailers would struggle to absorb and would have to pass on through higher shop prices,” he said.

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“Tariffs on clothing and footwear could be up to 16 per cent if we had to revert to World Trade Organization rules.

“Average import duties on food – where we trade most heavily with the EU - could be even higher. That would be a huge challenge for retailers currently grappling with other rising costs and would also increase pressure on stretched household finances in Scotland, which are already feeling the pinch from rising inflation and higher council tax.”

SRC parent organisation the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has drawn up a “road map” that it wants the next government to follow in order to facilitate a “smart Brexit”.

“Ensuring this journey is positive for retailers and consumers requires the Government to lead an orderly and sequenced process, where we renegotiate to continue across the board tariff-free arrangements with the EU before securing new trading relationships with the rest of the world,” the association said. “By preserving the openness in trade we already have with our existing partners in the short term and reaping the benefits of new trade deals in the medium term, consumers get continued and even greater access to a diverse range of goods at competitive prices.”

It added that it will be looking at how prices can be kept down for UK consumers by “achieving frictionless customs arrangements” as well as ensuring the continuity of existing EU legislation when it transfers to the UK.

The BRC is also urging the Government to consult with businesses when drawing up its trade policy.