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 Papers

Briefing Paper 60 - CPTPP and agri-food regulation: Crossing the EU-exit rubicon? Briefing Paper 61 - Accessing CPTPP without a national digital regulatory strategy? Hard policy challenges for the UK

More Briefing papers

Trade policy animated videos

Our videos help to explain the effects of Brexit.

Gains from trade (part 2) looks at why trade results in winners and losers. Specialisation and the competition it creates in and between firms will mean some firms benefit whilst others struggle to adapt and / or compete. These firms may be forced to cut jobs or even close down and this, in turn, impacts on the workers and regions where those firms are located. But trade is only one factor that leads to winners and losers. Technology, for example, has had a significant impact. We show that various policies can help to mitigate the negative effects of trade on workers and regions and how these can be better than protectionism.

More trade explainers are available on our animations page:

  • Free ports fact-checked
  • Brexit: Where does it hurt?
  • Rolling over the EU’s Free Trade Agreements
  • The Single Market
  • Customs Union
  • UK trade with the EU

November 25th, 2016

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Share this article: 29 July 2021 Yohannes Ayele is Research Fellow in the Economics of Brexit at the University of Sussex and Fellow of the UKTPO. Since 1 January 2021, the UK’s trading relationship with its biggest and closest trading partner—the EU—has been governed by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). Although the TCA is a zero-tariff and quota-free trade deal, several reports indicate that it is having a negative impact on the UK’s trade with the EU (see, 1, 2, and 3). While looking at the aggregate effect of the TCA on the UK trade is important, such analysis also misses the substantial differential impact of the TCA across the UK’s devolved administrations and regions. Regions in the same country can be affected differently by new trade barriers because of the difference in industrial production structure and, second, the differential exposure of industries to trade policy changes. In this… Read More

July 29th, 2021

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Share this article: 29 July 2021 Yohannes Ayele is Research Fellow in the Economics of Brexit at the University of Sussex and Fellow of the UKTPO. Since 1 January 2021, the UK’s trading relationship with its biggest and closest trading partner—the EU—has been governed by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). Under the TCA, UK exports to the EU face zero-tariff and zero-quota. However, to claim zero tariffs, exporters must meet the rules of origin requirements and be able to provide proof of origin. Where exporters do not meet the requirements they end up paying the tariff. Even those exporters that can meet the rules of origin requirement, because of the cost of the paperwork and requirements for proof of origin needed to claim the zero tariff, they may instead choose to pay the tariff. The latter is more likely where the tariff preference margin (i.e., the difference between MFN… Read More

July 29th, 2021

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Share this article: 23 July 2021 Nicolo Tamberi is Research Officer in Economics at the University of Sussex and a fellow of the UKTPO. We have updated our estimates of the effects of the introduction of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on UK-EU trade in 2021 through to April. The methodology used was described in the UKTPO briefing paper 57 (see the appendix for details). We find that over the period January-April 2021, the TCA reduced UK exports to the EU by 18.7% and imports from the EU by 25.8% compared to the scenario in which the UK did not leave the EU. For the analysis, we used HMRC for UK trade and Eurostat data for EU trade excluding gold from both exports and imports (HS code 7108). Over the last few months, analysts and commentators have noted a big gap between UK exports to the EU as reported… Read More

July 23rd, 2021

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