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.

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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: 14 October 2019 Michael Gasiorek is Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex and a Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.  With the current state of negotiations between the UK and the EU it is easy to see why attention is focussed on the politics of a possible agreement. The contentious issue is, of course, that of the Irish border. However, the focus on the politics means that there has been little discussion of the economic impacts and specifically of the vulnerability of the Northern Irish economy to the decisions being made. Now, even prior to the 2016 referendum Boris Johnson made it clear that, from his perspective, the decision to leave the EU was all to do with politics, and he was repeatedly dismissive that there would be negative economic consequences. He argued that: “the economic advantages for Britain [of being in the EU]… Read More

October 14th, 2019

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Share this article: 03 October 2019 L. Alan Winters CB is Professor of Economics and Director of the Observatory. At last, a chink of clarity. Yesterday’s proposal for the treatment of the Irish economy admits, more or less for the first time officially, that there are trade-offs to Brexit. Suddenly the laws of political physics are restored. You cannot both have your cake and eat it. The trade-off that has at last dawned on Boris Johnson is that if you want the whole of the UK to choose its own tariffs on goods, a customs border in Ireland is inevitable. And if you want Britain to be able to set its own regulations, then you need a border in the Irish Sea.

October 3rd, 2019

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Share this article: 26 September 2019 Dr Peter Holmes is Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex, Director of Interanalysis and Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. Interview by Kate Beaumont. This article was first published on Lexis®PSL Commercial on 5 September 2019.   How will the establishment of free ports enable the UK to benefit from Brexit trade opportunities? Dr Peter Holmes, reader in economics at the University of Sussex, considers the pros and cons of these special ports where normal tax and customs rules do not apply.

September 26th, 2019

Posted In: UK - Non EU, UK- EU

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