Welcome to the UK Trade Policy Observatory

Following the decision to leave the EU, the UK needs to reconfigure its trade policy, successfully navigating a path through a new international trade landscape. The UK Trade Policy Observatory aims to ensure that new trade policies are constructed in a manner that benefits all.

For over four decades, the EU has handled most elements of international trade policy on Britain’s behalf. Brexit changes all that and there is now an urgent need to debate and define the UK’s place in the international trading system and then to negotiate it with our partners. This requires expert analysis, commentary and inputs from people experienced in trade policy formation and practice.

The UK Trade Policy observatory (UKTPO), a partnership between the University
 of Sussex and Chatham House, is an independent expert group that:

1) Initiates, comments on and analyses trade policy proposals for the UK;

2) Trains British policymakers, negotiators and other interested parties through tailored training packages.

Created in June 2016, the UKTPO is committed to engaging with a wide variety of stakeholders 
to ensure that the UK’s international trading environment is reconstructed in a manner that benefits all in Britain and is fair to Britain, the EU and the world.

Latest Briefing Paper - Brexit and global value chains: 'No-deal' is still costly

Trade policy animated videos

Our videos help to explain the effects of Brexit.

‘Brexit: Where does it hurt?’ portrays the potential shock that a ‘no deal’ Brexit may have on jobs across 632 parliamentary constituencies in Britain. Many studies, including the Government’s own analysis, suggest that Brexit will be costly for the UK because it will increase the costs of trading with the EU. Based on an estimate that suggests a ‘no deal’ Brexit will cause national GDP to fall by about 2.5%, we find that job losses tend to be concentrated in large areas of employment, such as cities and large towns. Yet, once we allow for commuting, the economic cost of Brexit is much more widely spread. We must stress that we are not asserting that the number of jobs lost will be equal to our estimates. People may avoid job losses resulting from lost international trade by accepting lower wages or shorter hours or by moving away, all of which will look different in terms of jobs, but these responses are merely different ways of accommodating to the same negative shock. What is clear, is that the Brexit shock would eliminate a particular number of jobs. For a detailed explanation of the research for this video, please see explanatory note in ‘The vulnerability of different parliamentary constituencies to Brexit economic shocks’

‘Grandfathering the EU’s Free Trade Agreements’ explains why rolling over these agreements is likely to be highly complicated, and will necessarily impact on trade. When the UK leaves the EU, it must also leave the EU’s free trade agreements with over 60 countries that it is currently a member of via the EU. The UK government intends to roll over these agreements so that they continue to apply, known as grandfathering. However, because of Rules of Origin and other clauses in some of these agreements, this will not be a simple cut and paste ‘UK’ job. This video explains why rolling over these agreements is likely to be highly complicated, time-consuming and will necessarily impact on trade.

‘The ins and outs of the Single Market’ explains what the Single Market is, how it works and the ways it effects trade, and thereby the economy. Ultimately, the video explains that there is a trade-off between making your laws independently and cooperating sufficiently to be a part of a bigger market and achieve higher incomes.

‘The Customs Union: The Fiction of ‘Frictionless’ Trade’ shows what leaving the EU Customs Union entails and that you need much more cooperation than just a customs union in order to achieve the same level of trade costs as we have now.

‘With or without EU’ shows that in terms of trade policy choosing trade priorities on the basis of aggregate UK data does not take into account the fact that the nations within the UK are exposed to trade with the EU in different ways.

November 25th, 2016

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Share this article: 16 July 2019 Chloe Anthony, Ffion Thomas, and Dr Emily Lydgate – lecturer in Law at the University of Sussex and a fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. In May we published a blog analysing the EU Exit statutory instruments (SIs) on pesticides prepared under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. One of the key concerns that we raised was that EU restrictions on pesticides with endocrine disrupting properties had been deleted. After this omission was identified, DEFRA responded very swiftly, clarifying that the deletion had been accidental and releasing a new Statutory Instrument (SI).

July 16th, 2019

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Share this article: 15 July 2019 Dr Michael Gasiorek is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Sussex and  Julia Magntorn Garrett is a Research Officer in Economics at the University of Sussex. Both are Fellows of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.  A favourite band (of at least one of the authors of this blog) from the 1980s was the Cocteau Twins (See, or rather listen to…Sugar Hiccup) – well-known for the dreamy unintelligibility of their lyrics.  Which of course leads to the dreamy unintelligibility of some of the promises being made around Brexit. Supporters of Brexit have argued that the UK need not be overly concerned with a ‘No deal’ Brexit. This ranges from positions that ‘No deal’ would not be “as frightening as people think” although there would be “some hiccups in the first year” (David Davies), and that although there may be “some disruption” Britain… Read More

July 15th, 2019

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Share this article: 03 July 2019 L. Alan Winters CB is Professor of Economics and Director of the Observatory. Last week I was challenged twice for using the term ‘no deal’. There is no such thing, I was told, because, even if the UK does not ratify the Withdrawal Agreement of 25th November 2018, there will still be plenty of deals. At the time I thought, for several reasons, that this was wrong in substance if not literally, but more recently I have concluded that it is also dangerous.  Like we saw in the referendum campaign, it undermines informed debate by deliberately confusing the terminology. ‘The deal’ is an agreement between the EU and the UK ‘setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union’ (Article 50 – Treaty on European Union). ‘No deal’ is the absence of such a… Read More

July 3rd, 2019

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