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 Paper - Happy Centennial Birthday UKEF: Fit for the Future?

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: 17 October 2019 Alasdair Smith is an Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex and is a member of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. Most of us may not yet have found the time to read and absorb the text of the new Brexit withdrawal agreement, but we can read the texts which “a Number 10 source”, whom we non-journalists are allowed to call Dominic Cummings, has sent to journalists. These texts deserve critical scrutiny.

October 17th, 2019

Posted In: UK- EU

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Share this article: 16 October 2019 Julia Magntorn Garrett is a Research Officer in Economics at the University of Sussex and Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.  In March 2019, Theresa May’s Government published a set of ‘No deal’ tariffs, designed to apply for up to 12 months in the event that the UK left the EU without a deal. The UKTPO described them in a blog and a Briefing Paper. On October 8, the new Government published an updated ‘No deal’ tariff schedule. This blog outlines the main changes, and recalculates various statistics, on the basis of the new tariff proposal.

October 16th, 2019

Posted In: UK - Non EU, UK- EU

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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.

October 14th, 2019

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