The impact of the UK's post-Brexit trade policy on development

Briefing papers
September 2016

Following the vote for Brexit, the UK is facing a formidable challenge: designing a new trade policy to address its new strategic interests. Considering the different and frequently opposing interests, this task is far from straightforward.

Many Brexit supporters have argued for a need to redefine the role of the UK in international politics, with trade at the centre. From the use of international development assistance to the negotiation of trade agreements, trade is regarded as the basis on which to pursue national interests as well as retain global leadership. Unfortunately, little attention has focused on how a new UK trade policy could contribute to development.

The potential to define a new trade strategy, agree new trade agreements and use new aid and trade tools constitutes a major opportunity for the UK to continue championing the cause of trade and development. It is also an opportunity for the UK to make trade policy work more effectively and efficiently in delivering development opportunities. At the same time, there are significant concerns over whether the UK is willing and able to assume such a role. The challenge of defining a new trade policy is considerable, and one for which the UK Government is ill-prepared. Given the magnitude of the tasks and the number of negotiations that the UK will face in the next few years, there is a major risk that developing countries will be overlooked.

This collection of essays offers a number of perspectives on how a new UK trade policy towards developing countries and regions could be designed and implemented, in both the short and longer term. It also conveys the concerns, opportunities and expectations from a group of leading trade specialists from academia, international organisations and think tanks in the UK and elsewhere.

This essay series was produced in partnership with the UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO).