Brexit: Government must seize opportunity to re-set trade with developing countries – Traidcraft Exchange

09 October 2017

The UK’s commitment to providing trade certainty for developing countries is welcome, but the Government is in danger of missing an opportunity to put something better in place, according to the international development charity Traidcraft Exchange.


The ‘Preparing for our future UK trade policy’ policy paper from the Department for International Trade sets out options for trading with developing countries once Brexit has been concluded.


“The Government’s intention to provide countries with continued market access is welcome, but there are different ways to achieve this goal. Plans to develop a bespoke UK preference scheme offer a real opportunity, but proposals to clone all the EU’s controversial Economic Partnership Agreements with developing countries risks exacerbating rather than alleviating poverty in some regions. We are close to missing an opportunity to re-set relationships with our future trading partners, especially in Africa,” said Liz May, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Traidcraft Exchange.


In June 2017 the UK Government announced that it would introduce a UK version of the EU’s ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme that allows goods from the world’s 49 least-developed countries to be imported tariff-free once Brexit takes effect, a decision Traidcraft Exchange welcomed. Today’s announcement builds on this, setting out plans for a new UK preference scheme.


“The UK Government should recognise the legitimate concerns some regions have with Economic Partnership Agreements, particularly those made up of poorer countries whose market access is already secured through the Government’s Everything But Arms commitment”, added May.


“In this time of uncertainty the best option is to build on the paper’s welcome commitment that a preference scheme will ‘at a minimum’ provide countries with the same level of market access. This would ensure that countries who cannot or do not want to go down the Economic Partnership Agreements route right now are covered. We look forward to working with Government to design this fair and simple solution which avoids the need for risky negotiations which, should they fail, would leave developing country exporters facing a cliff edge,” said May.


A UK gold standard market access scheme such as this would help keep prices low for UK consumers and reduce poverty. It would comply with World Trade Organization rules and would bring the UK into line with a number of other developed countries such as Norway, Canada and New Zealand.


The policy paper also revealed that the UK Government is planning to ‘introduce measures through legislation which will allow the Government to fully implement’ these transitioned Free Trade Agreements and Economic Partnership Agreements. Although the proposal is unclear, any intention to push through new trade agreements with minimal discussion and debate, will be opposed by Traidcraft Exchange.


“Imposing trade rules by ministerial decree defies democratic principles. All deals – including those that are transitional - must be fully scrutinised by Parliament and subject to full parliamentary debate and a vote by positive resolution,” concluded Liz May.




For more information or to speak to Liz May, contact Tom Sharman: or 07757 753 318


Notes for editors:

Tom Sharman