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26 May 2017

Compiled by Fellows of the UKTPO

Brexit will leave many areas of UK policy open to change. International trade policy is among the most important of these for UK prosperity and also among the most immediate because the status quo cannot simply be extended. This is the fifth in a series of blogs reporting what the major political parties say about trade policy in their 2017 manifestos, as they become available.

The UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) has set out a series of issues that it believes should be considered in any election manifesto that might form the basis of the UK’s future trade policy. The table below checks whether or not the UKIP Manifesto mentions these important elements explicitly or implicitly. Following that we offer a brief commentary on the treatment of trade policy in the manifesto.

Table checklist


Leaving the EU is the key focus for UKIP, and they advocate repealing the European Communities Act (1972) as the first step in the leaving process in order to be able to take back control of key policy areas.

The UKIP manifesto is explicit about the terms for Brexit with ‘six Brexit tests’ that argue that Britain must be completely free from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, have full control of immigration and asylum policies, and border control as well as control of our maritime exclusive economic zone. The UK ‘must retake its seat on the World Trade Organisation’, must not pay any divorce payment to the EU, nor contribute to the EU budget and that Brexit ‘must be done and dusted before the end of 2019’.

Whilst a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU that will allow trade to continue ‘on the same basis as at present’ is desired, UKIP does not countenance a transition period:

if the EU continues to make unreasonable demands in return for even talking about free trade, then we must be prepared to walk away

which ‘may be an economically sound choice.’

In terms of trade policy, UKIP aims to establish the UK on the world market as a low tax, low regulation economy. They state that they will

‘reduce tariffs wherever possible, unless initiating anti-dumping measures, and oppose the establishment and continuance of protectionist customs unions such as the EU’.

The reference to anti-dumping duties suggests concern for producers threatened by import competition, but UKIP also states that if an FTA with the EU were not reached, it would use tax from import tariffs to cut VAT to compensate consumers for slightly higher prices, or other spending priorities. The reference to customs unions is relevant only to the EU – UKIP wants to leave – because no other customs union deals are on the cards.

Beyond Europe, UKIP embraces new trading markets in all seven continents of the globe (presumably including Antarctica) and pledges to work with (implicitly sign ‘free trade deals’ with) the US, the Commonwealth and the poorest nations. It says

The sooner we can start making our own free trade deals …, the better. … Countries are already queuing up to make trade deals with Britain.

On social and environmental standards, UKIP commits that

‘We will not engage in unethical trade practices that harm or inhibit [developing countries’] trade, traditional lifestyles, or natural resources.’

Trade, they say, is

‘a far better way [than aid] to help developing nations lift themselves out of poverty.’

While the UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) takes no institutional position, and will continue to remain firmly non-partisan during the UK General Election, it believes it is useful to share some of the questions that its fellows think will be important when reviewing what the party manifestos say about trade.

Examining manifestos is particularly important, because the winning party’s manifesto may be cited under the Salisbury Convention, which precludes the House of Lords from opposing bills passed by the Commons to honour election manifesto pledges.

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions of the University of Sussex.


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