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.

Latest Briefing Paper - Equivalence, mutual recognition in financial services and the UK negotiating position

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: 14 February 2019 L. Alan Winters CB, Professor of Economics and Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. Key Points: New research from OECD shows that the European Single Market dramatically lowers the barriers to services trade within the European Economic Area (EEA). Yet, far from prioritising the preservation of such access for UK services trade, the UK political and media debate is focused almost entirely on the much smaller goods sector.

February 14th, 2019

Posted In: UK - Non EU

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Share this article: 13 February 2019 Dr Michael Gasiorek is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Sussex and a fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. Currently, there is much focus on the politics of getting some version of the Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament. This requires a political resolution to the inclusion of the ‘backstop’ in the Withdrawal Agreement. The strategy appears to be to come up with “alternative arrangements” which will be acceptable to the UK Parliament and to which the EU can agree. A spoonful of sugar might help the medicine go down. However, even if this can be achieved the fundamental issue will not have been resolved.  

February 13th, 2019

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Share this article: 12 February 2019 Dr Michael Gasiorek is a Senior Lecturer in Economics and Julia Magntorn Garrett is a Research Officer in Economics at the University of Sussex. Both are fellows of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. As a member of the EU, the UK is party to around 40 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with more than 70 countries. Over the last two years or so, the Government has stated that it intends to roll over, or more formally, ‘replicate’ these agreements. Indeed, in 2017 Liam Fox claimed that ”we’ll have up to 40 ready for one second after midnight in March 2019”. However, in recent weeks it has become clear that this is not going to happen,[1] and that at best there will only be a very small number of agreements replicated.[2] In this blog, we give some summary statistics outlining why this matters economically and which… Read More

February 12th, 2019

Posted In: UK- EU

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