British bike firms have expressed fears that they will be unable to compete with state-subsidised Chinese rivals if Brexit results in an end to import tariffs. Increased competition in the UK market is also likely to be compounded by reduced access to the EU.
Bikes from China are currently subject to EU ‘anti-dumping’ tariffs of up to 48.5%. Bloomberg reports that these are levied because large state subsidies give Chinese manufacturer’s an unfair advantage.
The UK is currently going through each of the EU’s anti-dumping rules and where British producers account for no more than 1% of the domestic market, the tariff will be dropped.
While folding bike maker, Brompton, has stockpiled £1m in parts as contingency for a “shit hits the fan” No Deal Brexit, CEO Will Butler-Adams has been broadly positive about leaving the EU up until now, saying that the fall in the value of sterling following the June 2016 referendum had enabled his firm to reduce prices in overseas markets.
However, commenting on the removal of anti-dumping tariffs, he said: “We’ve got coronavirus, we’ve got Brexit, we need as a nation to be supporting industries that have potential to grow.
“There’s this fantastic opportunity in cycling. You would have thought the government would support it and nurture that industry.”
A spokesperson for the Department for International Trade said: “We have been consulting with British bicycle producers and recognise the challenges that the industry faces. However, British consumers will bear the brunt of higher prices if anti-dumping measures were retained or carried across from the EU.”
Children’s bike firm, Frog Bikes, said that in July it submitted evidence to the government showing that domestic producers make up more than 3% of the UK market and therefore anti-dumping tariffs should still apply.
“It’s a substantial threat to us,” said co-founder Shelley Lawson. “It’s not good for the cycling consumer at all.”
Lawson said that recent efforts to contact the Trade Remedies Authority, the government agency responsible, had not elicited a response. She says she does not know how the decision was taken or how it can be appealed.
Frog also does 50% of its business in the EU, but expects to be hit by tariffs from January. Lawson said that even with a trade deal, EU customers would find it harder to source their bikes because of extra customs measures.