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 policy makers, 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.


Trade policy animated videos

Our videos help to explain the effects of Brexit.

‘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.

Grandfathering the EU’s Free Trade Agreements

The ins and outs of the Single Market

The Customs Union: The Fiction of ‘Frictionless’ Trade

With or without EU

November 25th, 2016

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Share this article: 01 October 2018 Dr Ingo Borchert is Senior Lecturer in Economics, and Dr Peter Holmes is a Reader in Economics, both are fellows of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.  The UK Government is currently proposing to the EU, broadly speaking, to adopt a common rulebook for goods.  By contrast, not much if anything is sought in the realm of services, let alone movement of people or other areas of the Single Market.  Part of the EU’s response has been that goods and services are so interlinked that one cannot have a goods only single market.  Is this response just posturing as part of the negotiations process, or are there real issues with separating goods and services?

October 1st, 2018

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Share this article: 26 September 2018 L. Alan Winters CB is Professor of Economics and Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Nicolo Tamberi is a Research Assistant in Economics for the Observatory The brusque dismissal of elements of Mrs May’s Chequers plan at the informal meeting in Salzburg last week has stimulated feverish attempts to revive the case for a deep and special UK-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA), under the title of a CETA-plus agreement. This effort received substantial reinforcement from the Institute for Economic Affairs’ paper of 24 September 2018. None of the discussion, however, has dealt seriously with the fact that an FTA will require the introduction of border formalities on UK-EU trade and that these will both violate the commitment to the absence of a border in Ireland and create serious congestion at those ports dealing with UK-EU flows, which will increase trading costs and cut… Read More

September 26th, 2018

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Share this article: 19 September 2018 Dr Emily Lydgate is a lecturer in Law at the University of Sussex and a fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. In its Chequers White Paper, the UK government has proposed that, in order to facilitate a frictionless border, it will operate a dual customs regime known as a Facilitated Customs Arrangement (‘FCA’). By replacing rules of origin checks at the EU-UK border with internal monitoring, the FCA requires firms to establish ‘robustly’ the destination of their products to ensure that correct duties have been applied, and then, if they wish, to seek rebates if they have been overcharged. Past UKTPO blogs have addressed logistical challenges and strategic downsides of this ‘Fantastically Complicated Alternative’ (see also Does the Chequers Agreement provide any steps to Brexit heaven?) But would it be compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organization? The precise details of the… Read More

September 19th, 2018

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