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tariff reform


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A British fiscal policy designed to end the nation's adherence to free trade by the use of protective duties on imported goods. Joseph Chamberlain believed that the use of tariffs would strengthen Britain's revenue and its trading position; it would also strengthen links within the British empire by making possible a policy of imperial preference (the application of lower rates of duty between its member countries). Chamberlain's campaign (1897–1906) failed, it divided the Conservatives and was rejected by the Liberals. Tariff reform was rejected again in 1923 when Stanley Baldwin and the Conservatives failed to secure an overall majority in an election primarily on that issue. However, the shock caused by the international financial crisis of 1929–31 and the intensification of nationalist political and economic rivalries made Britain's free trade policy even more of an anachronism. The adoption of protectionism by the MacDonald National government from 1931 signalled the ultimate success of the tariff reform policy.

Subjects: History


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