Britain could be flooded with cheaper foreign copies of UK goods in a no-deal Brexit, a leading manufacturing group has warned.
A representative of the Make UK trade body said some of the key intellectual property (IP) rules protecting UK products from imitations by rivals may lapse if Britain left the EU without an agreement in October.
Sean Nevin, chief economist at Make UK, said British manufacturers could be undercut by global companies and face a “perfect storm” if Britain left without a deal with Brussels.
He said firms may not only lose IP protections, but also face far greater competition as the government’s contingency plans include lowering barriers to foreign goods.
He told a hearing of parliament’s Brexit select committee on Wednesday: “In the event of a no-deal Brexit, much of the intellectual property protections that we have for UK-patented goods woud cease to apply, so we would be unable to prevent copycat goods flooding the market.”
He said the government planned to allow foreign firms to “undercut British firms” by exporting to the UK without current tariffs.
Nevin said UK manufacturers would be threatened not only at home but also in their exports abroad, because they would face World Trade Organization (WTO) and regulatory tariffs.
“It would be a perfect storm. We’d be creating a huge amount of barriers for British firms in terms of their ability to export overseas while a same time alowing free entry for anybody else to flood our market with cheaper goods,” he said.
Officials at Make UK fear Britain could lose protections that it currently enjoys under the Hague Convention on intellectual property in a no-deal scenario.
Britain is a signatory of the convention as a member of the EU rather than directly, so there are concerns the UK could face a long wait while applying for membership.