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Image of Alan Winters21 August 2017

L. Alan Winters CB, Professor of Economics and Director of UKTPO.

Economists for Free Trade (EfFT) are back, offering the Introduction to an unpublished – and hence unknown – report that claims £135 billion benefits from Brexit. It not only repeats the previous claim that GDP will increase by 4% if the UK adopts free trade, which I characterised  as ‘doubly misleading’ in April, but it adds in an extra 2% from ‘improved regulation’, 0.6% from our net budget contribution to the EU and 0.2% from removing the ‘subsidy to unskilled immigration’. It also promises faster growth as well.

I’ll come back to free trade, but, first, what regulations will be improved? We are not told. Similarly, what subsidy to immigration? Who knows? The budget contribution to the EU may be saved, but we will need to spend much of it on providing replacements for various EU regulatory bodies such as the European Medicines Agency, on negotiating new deals on things like airlines or nuclear isotopes, supporting farmers (which EfFT apparently accepts), on customs formalities on trade with the EU, on managing alleged unfair trade and on trade disputes, etc. Until we see the details, you have to doubt these numbers. (more…)

August 21st, 2017

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23 June 2017

L. Alan Winters CB, Professor of Economics and Director of UKTPO and Ilona Serwicka, Research Fellow at UKTPO

One year ago the British people voted to leave the EU. Out of 33.5 million votes cast, 51.9 per cent were for ‘leave’, albeit in the absence of any statement about what ‘leaving’ might mean. The government is still vague about what the UK’s post-Brexit trade policy should be – even after triggering the formal leave process – but the general election has pressured Theresa May to soften her Brexit stance. Even though Brexit negotiations are now formally under way, the options suddenly again seem wide open for debate.

In terms of options the UK is back at square one, but following a year’s analysis, it is now clearer what these options amount to. Over the year, the UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) has discussed many of the options and this note draws on some of that analysis to try to light the path forward. (more…)

June 23rd, 2017

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Image of Alasdair Smith19 June 2017

Alasdair Smith is an Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex, and is a member of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.

It’s now 12 months since the referendum decision, 3 months since the Article 50 notification, and only 21 months until the date on which the UK is due to exit the EU. Brexit negotiations start today, but most politicians have still not progressed beyond the stage of wishful thinking.

There are ambiguities about the objectives of both the large political parties but each seems to want some kind of free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU after Brexit, often described by a phrase like ‘tariff-free access to the single market’. Behind such inherently confused terminology lies an apparent wish to have a ‘deep’ FTA; that is to say, a UK-EU FTA which has no tariffs and sufficient regulatory convergence between the UK and the EU that many of the non-tariff advantages of the single market are retained.

Here’s the first hard truth: a deep UK-EU FTA cannot be negotiated in 21 months. Even much weaker agreements take longer, especially if the political and technical ground has not been prepared in advance, so it’s not ‘challenging’ or ‘ambitious’ or ‘difficult’: everyone who understands the reality of trade negotiations knows that it is completely impossible. (more…)

June 19th, 2017

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Portrait image of David Bowlesimage of Iyan I.H. Offor12 June 2017

Guest blog by Iyan I.H. Offor, Trade & Animal Welfare Project Officer at Eurogroup for Animals and David BowlesAssistant Director, Public Affairs, RSPCA.

The Conservative Government has been quick to highlight the potential benefits and quick wins for animal welfare made possible by new UK trade competencies post-Brexit. However, experience with the reality of trade negotiations is making some animal welfare organisations more sceptical.

The UK has some of the highest standards in the world enacted under a legislative model. This is in contrast to the approach of the US and Canada, for example, which place reliance upon voluntary industry standards. Diverging welfare standards can result in increased imports of low-welfare products for two reasons. First, lower animal welfare standards are invariably linked to cheaper production which out-factors transport costs. Second, there are no effective mandatory product labelling mechanisms for animal welfare, except for shell eggs. Thus, although consumers express willingness to buy higher welfare products and to pay a premium for such products, they inadvertently purchase low welfare meat and dairy because the market does not operate transparently. This puts the livelihoods of British farmers who comply with animal welfare production requirements at risk. (more…)

June 12th, 2017

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18 May 2017

Compiled by Fellows of UKTPO

Brexit will leave many areas of UK policy open to change. International trade policy is among the most important of these for UK prosperity and also among the most immediate because the status quo cannot simply be extended. This is the second in a series of blogs reporting what the major political parties say about trade policy in their 2017 manifestos, as they become available.

The UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) has set out a series of issues that it believes should be considered in any election manifesto that might form the basis of the UK’s future trade policy. The table below checks whether or not the Liberal Democrats’ Manifesto mentions these important elements explicitly or implicitly. Following that we offer a brief commentary on the treatment of trade policy in the manifesto.

The central plank of the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto is remaining in the single market and the customs union. This implies no change to current trade policies and hence little need to discuss them in the manifesto. Thus their coverage of trade policy is rather sparse. (more…)

May 18th, 2017

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16 May 2017

Compiled by Fellows of UKTPO

Brexit will leave many areas of UK policy open to change. International trade policy is among the most important of these for UK prosperity and also among the most immediate because the status quo cannot simply be extended. This is the first in a series of blogs reporting what the major political parties say about trade policy in their 2017 manifestos, as they become available.

The UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) has set out a series of issues that it believes should be considered in any election manifesto that might form the basis of the UK’s future trade policy. The table below checks whether or not the Labour Party Manifesto mentions these important elements explicitly or implicitly. Following that we offer a brief commentary on the treatment of trade policy in the manifesto.

(more…)

May 16th, 2017

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26 April 2017

On 22 February 2017, UKTPO, CBI and the TUC held an event in Newcastle that brought together employees and employers to discuss the important regional issues for post-Brexit trade. This guest blog by Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director for the North East, CBI; and Beth Farhat, Regional Secretary, Northern TUC draws on this discussion.

Now that Brexit negotiations are officially underway it’s important to consider what kind of deal workers and businesses want from negotiations, and what kind of deal will enable all parts of the country to develop and prosper after we leave the EU.

As representatives of working people and businesses from across the North East, we are seeking a Brexit deal that ensures stability and delivers decent jobs, fair pay and growth for the region. (more…)

April 26th, 2017

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19 April 2017

L. Alan Winters CB, Professor of Economics and Director of UKTPO.

In this blog, Professor Winters responds to Patrick Minford and Edgar Miller’s recent paper on unilateral free trade in relation to Brexit.

Economists for Free Trade’s Patrick Minford recently suggested that the UK should

simply eliminate our tariffs on them [the EU], and by implication – under WTO rules – on everyone else. By doing so, we would achieve free trade for our consumers with one quick move [and increase consumer welfare by 4%] Minford (2017).

This, he explains in a fuller exposition, is achievable ‘via Unilateral Free Trade’ – see page 8 of Minford and Miller (2017), henceforth referred to as M&M.

But this claim is misleading or worse:

  • It is based on a very particular view of the world economy,
  • Even in M&M’s own analysis, the benefits of 4% of welfare (or GDP) depend on far more than ‘simply eliminating tariffs’; they also require deeper integration with the EU and a race to the bottom on standards;
  • M&M assume that the devaluation of sterling will have no effect on the prices of UK imports!

(more…)

April 19th, 2017

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17 January 2017

Dr Peter Holmes (Reader in Economics and member of the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex), reacts to Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech on negotiating objectives for exiting the EU.

The speech essentially confirms what we knew already, that sticking to the government’s red lines on the European Court of Justice and free movement would make joining the European Economic Area impossible and so we must leave the single market. (more…)

January 17th, 2017

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L. Alan Winters7 November 2016

L. Alan Winters, Professor of Economics and Director of UKTPO.

The ideal trading partner is rich, large, similar and next door. For the UK this means the EU, and for the UK government, this means trade negotiations with our European neighbours must take priority.

In my recent article for the NIESR November Review, I explore the reasons why negotiating the UK’s future trade arrangements is a massive job. These are the main points I raise. (more…)

November 7th, 2016

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