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 54 - Taking Stock of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement: Governance, State Subsidies and the Level Playing Field Briefing Paper 53 - Taking Stock of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement: Trade in Services and Digital Trade Briefing Paper 52 - Taking Stock of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement: Trade in Goods

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: 18 February 2021 Erika Szyszczak is Professor Emerita and a Fellow of the UKTPO. Traditionally, the legal enforcement of obligations was the Achilles heel of bilateral and multilateral international agreements. The EU has signalled that it wants to conduct international trade based upon the rule of law.  The demise of the WTO Appellate body since 11 December 2019 has focused the EU into using and bolstering its own Dispute Resolution mechanisms in international trade agreements. The significance of this approach is seen in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement between the EU and the UK 2020, containing innovative procedures for rebalancing the trade elements of the TCA (and ultimately cancelling them) if one side changes its standards in ways that materially affect trade. Such rebalancing can be triggered in several circumstances, including via periodic reviews of the whole trade relationship.

February 18th, 2021

Posted In: UK- EU

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Share this article: 3 February 2021 Michael Gasiorek is Professor of Economics and Director of the UKTPO.  Guillermo Larbalestier is Research Assistant in International Trade, and Nicolo Tamberi is Research Officer in Economics, both for the UKTPO. As widely anticipated and signalled in advance, the International Trade Secretary announced on Monday 1 February that the UK notified the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), of its intention to join. The CPTPP is a free trade agreement between 11 ‘Pacific’ countries which was signed in 2018.[1] This is an early step in the UK’s newfound and hard-won sovereign and independent trade policy.

February 3rd, 2021

Posted In: UK - Non EU

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Share this article: 17 December 2020 Alasdair Smith is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex and Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. If the UK leaves the EU transition period without a trade deal there will be disruption and delay at the borders in the short run; and in the longer run, there will be the economic costs of trade barriers for important parts of the UK economy like agriculture, food manufacturing and the car industry. There will be problems too for the EU. The biggest obstacle to a deal is the arcane issue of the ‘level playing field’. Does this really matter enough to both sides to prevent an agreement?

December 17th, 2020

Posted In: UK- EU

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