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. (more…)
Charlotte Humma October 16th, 2019
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.
Now, even prior to the 2016 referendum Boris Johnson made it clear that, from his perspective, the decision to leave the EU was all to do with politics, and he was repeatedly dismissive that there would be negative economic consequences. He argued that:
“the economic advantages for Britain [of being in the EU] are either overstated or non-existent” and that “we will trade as much as ever before, if not more”. 
The logical corollary of this argument is that leaving the EU, by leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market, would have a negligible impact. I have just been to the island of Ireland and it is quite clear that businesses and stakeholders do not remotely buy into this story.
What many commentators have been saying for a long time is that there are only two solutions to the problem of maintaining no border and no customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Either the UK remains in the Customs Union and Single Market; or Northern Ireland only remains in the Customs Union and the Single Market. Worryingly it is still not clear how well this has been understood by those negotiating supposedly on behalf of the UK, who seemed to think a workable solution could be found with just Northern Ireland in the Single Market, but out of the Customs Union together with Great Britain. The latest ‘landing-zone’ for an agreement appears to be based on a fudge with Northern Ireland being both in a customs union with GB, but also in the EU Customs Union.
Worryingly too is the lack of discussion about the economic consequences for Northern Ireland of what is being discussed. ALL of the above outcomes will directly increase the costs of trade for firms in Northern Ireland – either with Ireland or with Great Britain or with both. And if the negotiations fail, the costs of exporting to Ireland will rise even more, while at the same time Northern Irish firms will be exposed to considerably more competition from imports arising from the UK governments’ ‘no-deal’ tariffs.
The economic reasons (see box below for some key relevant statistics) underlying these substantial concerns derive from several factors:
These concerns are both immediate but also longer term. The immediate short run, (which in the event of ‘no deal’ is the very short run) impacts mean that the changes in the costs of selling and buying from the Republic of Ireland, from Great Britain, and from the rest of the world will make Northern Irish firms less competitive and less able to survive. For example, the Northern Ireland’s Department of the Economy analysis of a ‘No deal’ suggests a possible decrease in exports of between 11% to 19%, and up to 40,000 jobs being vulnerable. 45% of firms surveyed in Ireland and Northern Ireland stated that Brexit was one of the top issues they are currently facing.
But there are also serious longer term concerns. A key driver of prosperity and economic growth in any region or country is the underlying physical and human capital. With regard to the former the worry is a ‘brain-drain’ to the extent that economic opportunities diminish in Northern Ireland. Any increase in tensions, any rise in security issues, is likely to exacerbate this. With regard to the latter, there may be an overall decline in investment and/or there will clearly be an incentive for some firms to relocate into the Republic of Ireland to avoid the higher costs of trading from Northern Ireland. 
So while the politics matters, and nothing can be agreed unless the politics aligns, it is important not to forget the economic realities that will be faced by the firms and people in Northern Ireland. It is not the case that the impacts will be negligible or non-existent. The consequences will be real, and potentially very long-lasting. Yet, it does not seem that this is a high consideration or priority for the UK government because of the domination of the political imperatives.
The importance of small firms:
 Boris Johnson speech on the EU referendum, 9th May 2016, https://www.conservativehome.com/parliament/2016/05/boris-johnsons-speech-on-the-eu-referendum-full-text.html
 The current proposals entail customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because the UK intends to leave the EU Customs Union, and regulatory checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland because Great Britain will leave the EU’s Single Market
 “Shock Absorption Capacity of Firms in Ireland and Northern Ireland”, InterTradeIreland
 InterTradeIreland, Business Monitor, 2019 (Q2)
 InterTradeIreland, Business Monitor, 2018 (Q4) reports that ‘almost a third of large businesses have experienced a negative impact on their investment decisions because of Brexit’
 NISRA, Overview of Northern Ireland Trade, Factsheet, https://www.nisra.gov.uk/statistics/eu-exit-analysis/eu-exit-trade-analysis
 “Export Participation of firms on the Island of Ireland”, InterTradeIreland.
 Firms with less than 50 employees. NISRA, “Overview of Northern Ireland Trade”, Factsheet, https://www.nisra.gov.uk/statistics/eu-exit-analysis/eu-exit-trade-analysis
 Firms with more than 50 employees. Source: NISRA, Overview of Northern Ireland Trade, Factsheet, https://www.nisra.gov.uk/statistics/eu-exit-analysis/eu-exit-trade-analysis; and “Export Participation of firms on the Island of Ireland”, InterTradeIreland.
 “Shock Absorption Capacity of firms in Ireland and Northern Ireland”, IntertradeIreland.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the University of Sussex or UK Trade Policy Observatory.
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Charlotte Humma October 14th, 2019
Posted In: UK- EU
14 March 2019
Dr Michael Gasiorek is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Sussex and Julia Magntorn Garrett is a Research Officer in Economics at the University of Sussex. Both are fellows of the UK Trade Policy Observatory. L. Alan Winters CB is Professor of Economics and Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory.
Following the first defeat of the Withdrawal Bill in Parliament, and prior to yesterday’s vote on a ‘No Deal’ alternative, the Government published the temporary tariff schedule it proposes to apply in the event of a no deal. As with most things Brexit, this is complicated to unpick, especially as some of the listed items are simply asterisked, and the details on these need to be found in another (1400 page) document! (more…)
Charlotte Humma March 14th, 2019
L. Alan Winters CB is Professor of Economics and Director of the Observatory and Julia Magntorn is Research Officer in Economics at the UKTPO.
There is much to digest in the White Paper on The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union and much to clarify. This blog is devoted entirely to trying to understand the Facilitated Customs Arrangement (FCA) that aims to deliver frictionless trade in goods between the UK and the EU after Brexit.
The FCA matters because trade that is ‘as frictionless as possible’ with the EU is now accepted by nearly everyone as desirable and has been characterised by much of business as essential. It also matters in the short term, however, because it is the UK government’s offer to the EU on how to ensure that there is no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Without a solution to this latter problem there will be no Withdrawal Agreement and no transition. (more…)
Charlotte Humma July 23rd, 2018
Posted In: UK - Non EU
29 March 2018
With one year to go until the UK will leave the European Union (EU), sorting out Britain’s trade relation with the EU is the most important task. Yet the design of the future UK-EU agreement has implications for trade policy towards non-EU countries. On account of this, the British Prime Minister in her Mansion House speech ruled out forming a new customs union with the EU because this “would not be compatible with a meaningful independent trade policy.” Indeed, having sovereignty over its external trade policy post-Brexit has been at the forefront of the UK’s negotiation agenda, and consequently, the provision in the current draft Withdrawal Agreement that the UK may commence Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with other countries during the transition period was perceived as an important concession won. (more…)
Charlotte Humma March 29th, 2018
26 October 2017
Nicolo Tamberi is Research Assistant for the UKTPO and Charlotte Humma is the UKTPO’s business manager.
Leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union will require the implementation of new border controls between the UK and the EU that will surely increase transport time and therefore costs. However minimal they may be, these new procedures will negatively affect trade between the two parties.
According to a study by EY, Economic footprint of the Channel Tunnel fixed link, trade between Folkestone and Calais via the Eurotunnel was estimated to be £91.4 billion or 24.8% of trade with the EU in 2014. Goods transported through the Channel Tunnel are exported from and imported to every region of the UK.
Today, transporting things from one shore to the other requires minimal controls such as those that exist between Surrey and Somerset. Businesses on both sides of the channel increase their efficiency by integrating their supply chains and by relying on the prompt connection across the channel. So, what about Brexit? If one thing is clear in the impenetrable mist surrounding the future UK-EU relations, it is that exiting the Single Market and the Customs Union will require increased border controls. (more…)
Tina Perrett October 26th, 2017
Posted In: UK- EU
30 May 2017
The UK has accounted for a major share of the world’s wine imports for centuries, and wine currently accounts for more than one-third of UK alcohol consumption. Its withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) will therefore affect not only UK wine consumers, producers, traders, distributors and retailers but also suppliers of those imports.
Based on a model of the world’s wine markets, in their Briefing Paper ‘Will Brexit harm UK and global wine markets?’ Professor Anderson and Glyn Wittwer determine the impacts of various alternative Brexit scenarios through to 2025, involving adjustments to UK and EU27 bilateral tariffs on wine imports and any changes to UK income growth and the value of the pound over the period of adjustment.
Their research indicates that for wine markets, the impact of the UK leaving the Customs Union is likely to come not only from tariff changes but also from slowed growth of UK incomes and devaluation of the pound. (more…)
Charlotte Humma May 30th, 2017