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Plagued by cost-of-living crisis, UK resorts to war-torn Syria with offer of lower tariffs

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
British and Syrian Flags waving aside.

The UK has promised to liberalize trade with Syria, offering lower tariffs to the war-torn country as part of plans to bring its cost-of-living crisis under control.

The Department for International Trade announced earlier this week that it is set to unilaterally offer improved trading terms to Bashar Assad’s government and seven other developing countries, which will be included in a new post-Brexit “enhanced preferences” scheme.

The UK government plans to cut tariffs for those countries by 85 percent in a bid to cut the cost of imports for British consumers and decrease the burden of soaring prices for people.

UK imports from Syria last year, including textiles, vegetables and sugar, were about £2m, while the exports, including dairy products, machinery and electrical goods, were around £4m.

The UK government is resorting to any method to fix its inflation-hit economy, which has witnessed skyrocketing energy prices, especially after imposing sanctions on Russian energy over the Ukraine war.

The decision comes at a time when most European countries are grappling with a severe energy crisis after losing access to Russian fuel.

Meanwhile, British officials have said that the “robust sanctions” on Damascus meant the Syrian government “could not benefit from enhanced preferences,” putting doubt over British claims that the economic strategy seeks to help developing nations.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the UK government has been funding militants seeking to overthrow the Assad government. In 2018, the UK took part in US-led missile strikes against Syria. In March 2021, the British government slapped sanctions on key allies of President Assad.

The UK is also currently funding Kurdish-run prisons in Syria, where hundreds of children are being held in dire conditions, despite the UN’s warning to London that funding “mass arbitrary detention centers is incompatible with the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights.”

“The UK’s funding of facilities holding detainees whom none have ever been at a court, much less charged with a crime, in life-threatening conditions raises serious legal questions,” said Letta Tayler, associate director and counterterrorism lead at Human Rights Watch.

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