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 67 - Supply Chain Resilience: The dangers of 'pick n mix'

Find all our Briefing papers

Trade policy animated videos

Our videos help to explain the effects of Brexit.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a key element of climate change mitigation strategies. Yet, some countries worry that heavy industry might relocate because their climate regulation makes it too expensive to operate, leading to so-called carbon leakage. This video analyses the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism pros and cons in addressing carbon leakage, and suggests how further cooperation may be achieved to ensure climate change policy is effective.

Global supply chains have become increasingly complex over the past 50 years, leaving companies exposed to a series of risks, no better illustrated than by the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment and medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic. This video puts forward suggestions for companies on how to manage persistent shocks through diversification, end-to-end supply chain visibility and targeted government policies.

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: 6 May 2022 L. Alan Winters is Professor of Economics at University of Sussex Business School and Founding Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Guillermo Larbalestier is Research Assistant in International Trade at the University of Sussex and Fellow of the UKTPO. The concept is simple: cut tariffs levied on food imports so the products become cheaper in the UK, right? In this blog, we look at the trade data and discuss the reasons why changing tariffs would hardly affect prices.[1] Only a small proportion of imports pay tariffs. In 2021, the UK imported £38.6 billion of food products[2] (equivalent to 7.6% of the UK’s total imports that year and about 46% of UK food consumption). Approximately 66% come from the EU and are already exempt from tariffs under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).[3] The other 34% of food imports are from non-EU… Read More

May 6th, 2022

Posted In: UK - Non EU, UK- EU

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Share this article: 4 May 2022 Minako Morita-Jaeger is Policy Research Fellow at the UK Trade Policy Observatory andSenior Research Fellow in International Trade in the Department of Economics, University of Sussex The UK Government is aiming to secure the UK’s status as “a global hub” of digital trade, using Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) as well as digital economy agreements. Driven by the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt strategy, the UK has been signing FTAs that include specific chapters/agreements on digital trade (such as with Australia, New Zealand, and Japan) and a digital economy agreement with Singapore. While these agreements are expected to create economic opportunities, with a strong focus on free data flow and technological developments and innovation, they pose wider policy challenges such as the interoperability of data privacy law, cooperation in competition policy and security. Since the UK is also in the process of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive… Read More

May 4th, 2022

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Share this article: 11 March 2022 Michael Gasiorek is Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex Business School President Biden announced today that the US, the EU, and the G7 countries (which includes the UK) will be suspending Russia’s Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status at the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this blog we look at what this actually means for the UK and what the potential trade implications are for the UK. What does MFN suspension mean? A key principle of the WTO is that countries do not discriminate between each other – this is known as MFN treatment. This means, for example, that a WTO member country will levy the same tariff on the imports of a given good no matter who is exporting the good. There are some exceptions to the application of MFN treatment – notably if… Read More

March 11th, 2022

Posted In: UK - Non EU

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