The Department for International Trade. Photo: Joe / Alamy Stock Photo

Policy report: the fraught business of trading-off priorities

For a newly independent Britain, the challenges of international commerce now go beyond economics
March 4, 2021

UK PLC, and especially UK SME, is having a spot of post-Brexit bother trading into the European Union. As Jill Rutter’s analysis elucidates, some of the delays and problems with paperwork are likely transitional, but some barriers will persist. Despite Boris Johnson’s much-vaunted tariff-free deal with the EU itself, the prospects for British commerce will—for better or worse—increasingly depend on agreements with countries elsewhere in the world.

Ministers have certainly been energetic on this front: as well as the Japanese deal and the ongoing Canadian negotiations that Ranil Jayawardena highlights, there are finished or provisional arrangements in place covering places from Peru to Papua New Guinea. The immediate focus has been on being able to continue to trade on the same sort of terms previously available through the EU, but a more ambitious next phase will aim at even freer exchange than that.   

The political economy is complex enough: export opportunities have to be weighed against the resistance of domestic producers who fear being undercut, and potential consumer reaction against things like chlorinated chicken imports from the US. The plot thickens when other foreign policy objectives, such as the human rights Emily Thornberry highlights, are factored in. The recent row over the “genocide amendment” will be the start of an ongoing debate.