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Making UK Trade Work for Development Post-Brexit

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Brexit has significant implications for UK trade with developing countries. Members of the UK government recently committed to ensuring that “development must be, and will continue to be, at the heart of the UK’s approach to international trade”. On 5 May 2017 Dr Emily Jones, Director of the Global Economic Governance Programme at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, hosted an expert workshop to explore the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on trade with developing countries and to identify specific policy options the UK government can consider in delivering on its commitment. 

Three headline messages emerged from the workshop. First, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is likely to substantially increase the costs for developing countries of accessing the UK market, and the UK government should act now to minimise these costs. Second, the UK is a significant trading partner for many developing countries and while UK trade policy is no ‘magic bullet’ for development, there are a series of options that the UK government can consider to ensure that UK trade policy post-Brexit supports sustainable development. Third, in order to properly evaluate these options, more information and analysis are needed in very specific areas. This report summarises the workshop discussions, distils policy options and identifies specific areas for further research.

The workshop was co-convened by the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxfam GB, Traidcraft, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Overseas Development Institute. It brought together experienced researchers, development practitioners, trade lawyers as well as representatives from developing country governments, international organisations, development NGOs, and the private sector. All of the conclusions reached and policy recommendations expressed by participants were their own and do not reflect the positions or advocacy of their respective organisations, unless otherwise stated. 


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