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 68 - The Energy Curtain – All Eyes On Fossil Fuel Prices This Summer

Find all our Briefing papers

Trade policy animated videos

Our videos help to explain the effects of Brexit.

The UK exports far more services than goods if all the different ways of trading services are considered. For example, some goods derive a substantial share of their value from services inputs such as research and development, logistics, distribution, branding and marketing. This video, produced by the UK Trade Policy Observatory, explains direct and indirect ways of trading services internationally, and looks at the implications for trade policy, particularly trade agreements.

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: 16 September 2022 Erika Szyszczak is a Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Professor Emerita of Law at the University of Sussex. On 23 February 2022, in a Communication on decent work worldwide, the EU announced a new legislative initiative tackling issues of sustainability and working conditions in global trade. [1] On the same day, the European Commission published a proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence.

September 16th, 2022

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Share this article: 12 September 2022 Michael Gasiorek is Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex Business School. Once again, the UK has a new Prime Minister, a new cabinet, and thus a new Secretary of State for International Trade. This is the 4th Secretary of State for trade in five years!

September 12th, 2022

Posted In: UK - Non EU, UK- EU, Uncategorised

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Share this article: 22 August 2022 Peter Holmes is a Fellow of the UK Trade Policy Observatory and Emeritus Reader in Economics at the University of Sussex Business School. Guillermo Larbalestier is Research Assistant in International Trade at the University of Sussex and Fellow of the UKTPO. After time in the shade, Freeports are back in the news. The policy has been embraced and a subject of discourse by both PM candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, as part of their “benefits from Brexit” claims and “levelling up” strategies. There has also recently been concern by some commentators that Freeports risk becoming ‘Charter Cities’.

August 22nd, 2022

Posted In: UK - Non EU, UK- EU, Uncategorised

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