Poorest countries stand to lose up to €385 million annually without UK trade deals post-Brexit

A map showing the UN's list of Least Developed Countries (LDCs)

Developing countries risk losing up to €385 million (£323 million; $430 million) if their current access to the UK market is not maintained following Brexit, a new series of essays published by the Overseas Development Institute and the UK Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex reveals.

As the UK faces one of its toughest policy challenges in designing a new trade strategy in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union, leading trade economists have come together to consider how the UK’s new trade policy could contribute to development.

It is calculated within the essays, titled The impact of the UK's post-Brexit trade policy on development, that the poorest countries save a total of €385m annually due to their preferential access to the UK market through the EU’s trade policy – a significant amount which could be lost if a trade deal with similar terms is not negotiated between the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the UK post-Brexit.

A further €205m (£172m, $229) annually could be lost by non-LDC African Caribbean Pacific developing countries (such as Ghana and Kenya) who also benefit from preferential access in the UK market.

At the same time, the UK could benefit by up to US$7.3 billion (€6.5 billion; £5.5 billion) by negotiating free trade agreements with major emerging markets to which the EU has not so far negotiated free market access –  though questions are raised about the chances of actually concluding deals with countries such as China and Brazil.

Dirk Willem te Velde, head of the International Economic Development Group at ODI, said: ‘As the UK prepares to negotiate its own trade deals outside of the EU, these essays show how a new UK trade policy could go beyond the current benefits developing countries receive from EU preferences.

‘The essays conclude a new UK trade policy could be more beneficial to developing countries by going beyond lower tariffs and including new provisions on services, investment, rules of origin, standards and Aid for Trade.’

Max Mendez-Parra, research fellow at ODI said: ‘The essays highlight that in a scenario of multiple negotiations faced by the UK, there is a danger that developing countries may be overlooked. The UK must ratify sooner than later the continuation of the duty free and quota free access for Least Developed Countries and consider transitional arrangements to secure existing level of market access for other non-LDC countries.’

L Alan Winters, Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory said: ‘The UK’s trade policy towards developing countries needs to be simple and pragmatic, so that it easy for both sides to administer and easy for the UK, with its lack of trade negotiating capacity to negotiate.’

By: James Hakner
Last updated: Friday, 9 September 2016