The unilateral free trade program is very simple: the British Parliament declares the abolition of all tariffs. To avoid a race in non-tariff barriers, the Parliament can pass a law declaring that every product which conforms to the EU norms and regulations can be sold freely in the UK. This should not be a problem since the UK still is a member of the EU. By Parliament’s act, most of the “non-tariff barrier” problem withers away without any need for regulatory harmonization. If the EU legislator considers it necessary to regulate the curvature of vegetables, so be it! But, although EU producers will be free to sell their product in the UK, the British legislator may deem it unnecessary to regulate its producers in the same absurd way.
The advantages of this approach are many. First, the UK can have free trade now instead of waiting through years of negotiations. No need to wait for bureaucrats to agree on which laws we burden consumers and producers with.
There certainly is a more efficient policy than maintaining trade barriers or threatening to raise some in order to force trade “partners” to keep their markets open. Indeed, the British government can make it clear that if the EU unfairly penalizes British interests in some sectors, e.g., finance, then the British government will work to maintain the competitiveness of the industry in question by aggressively lowering their taxes. Imagine that the EU wants to damage Britain’s car manufacturers. Then the British government should not be afraid to create a loophole and to lower manufacturers’ corporate taxes — even to zero. In an economy which was never as globalized and competitive as today, the UK would have good chances of prevailing over the EU interests.
Perhaps the EU will consider making trading conditions with the UK harder, but they would have way too much to lose if doing so means creating a fiscally ultra-attractive market just next door. In the short run, unilateralism in trade can achieve what multilateralism cannot, a quick and radical liberalization of exchanges. In the long run, unilateralism can achieve what multilateralism cannot, genuine free trade.