logo logo

United Kingdom

Britain’s vote to leave the EU opens up the possibility of dozens of dangerous trade deals being negotiated with far-reaching effects across the world.

The desire to have an independent trade policy was a key motivating factor for leading proponents of leaving the EU. Through this trade policy, right-wing think tanks and politicians hope to move the British economy closer to the US model of deregulation and liberalisation, and away from what they see as the over regulated protectionism of the European Union. What’s more, they hope to trade far more with emerging and developing economies, building on what they see as Britain’s glorious history of global free trade.

These trade deals could have a serious impact on Britain’s public services and food standards, and threaten to make Britain an even more finance-dependent economy, deeply centralised and unequal – ironically the very conditions that gave rise to Brexit. But the impact globally could be even more serious, as the British government threatens to go into bat for big corporations, using intellectual property, e-commerce, investor protection and procurement rules to rip away standards and regulations that developing countries employ to protect their people, their environment and their right to economic development.

Britain’s new system for negotiating and ratifying trade deals is deeply undemocratic, with the public having no right to information, and members of parliament unable to properly scrutinise, nevermind stop, a trade deal. So the struggle for basic accountability and transparency is one that must go hand-in-hand with attempts to stop dangerous trade deals.

Britain is now a deeply polarised country, where nothing is certain. With Britain’s relationship with the EU unresolved, it is difficult to even know which areas of trade Britain will be able to negotiate. The most ardent free traders tend to favour a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, leaving Britain free to pursue the most extreme free market pacts possible. On the other side, the positive opportunity presented by the current moment is that it has reawakened interest in trade and presents an opportunity to inform the public that a modern trade deal extends well beyond tariffs and quotas. Completely new ways of ‘doing trade’ are being discussed and proposed within political parties in a way not known for many years.

Britain has been seeking to roll over 40 trade deals signed between the EU and third countries, including South Korea, Japan, Canada, Carribbean states, Central America, East and Southern African states. New trade deals with Australia, New Zealand and the US have also been identified as priorities.

Contributed by Nick Dearden, Global Justice Now (last update: August 2019)

Photo: Global Justice Now

Free trade deal with Mexico discussion and animal welfare
Claims that beef imported from Mexico has a lower carbon footprint than UK-reared beef are ‘B-word’, an environment minister has said.
UK free trade deal with GCC on track for fourth round of talks
The British government’s investment minster has said the third round of talks that could eventually lead to a free trade agreement between the UK and the GCC have been completed successfully and a fourth session should be held in London later this year.
UK hails ’trade wins’ with Saudi Arabia and UAE as GCC talks enter third round
As negotiators sat down for talks in Saudi capital Riyadh, Britain’s Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch welcomed the early progress in trade relations with Gulf nations as hopes of a £1.6 billion pact increase.
UK to ratify free trade agreement with Australia by end of March - High Commissioner
The United Kingdom will ratify the post-Brexit free trade agreement with Australia by the end of March, UK High Commissioner to Australia Victoria Treadell said.
Senators Coons, Thune introduce legislation to kick-start trade negotiations with United Kingdom
The UNITED Act builds on the common values and interests of the US and UK to grant new presidential authority on a new trade agreement.
Batters tells NFU conference to call for action on food supply
She raised concerns on the cumulative impact of the trade deals with New Zealand and Australia, as well as on the current negotiations with Canada and Mexico, both members of CPTPP which the UK is hoping to join this year.
UK trade minister visits Mexico, targeting new deals
Britain’s trade minister begins a two-day visit to Mexico, targeting a bilateral trade deal as well as Britain’s accession to a Pacific trading association.
How do UK trade agreements measure up on human rights?
There is an urgent need for coherence. The UK should set out clearly in a trade strategy how its trade policy will support human rights, labour rights and the climate, including how each trade agreement will meet the four tests laid out here.
British trade minister to launch new round of talks with India
British trade minister Kemi Badenoch will hold her first face-to-face meeting with her Indian counterpart in New Delhi in an effort to spark life into talks over a free trade agreement between the countries.
Britain eyes trade agreements with California, Utah
Britain inked an agreement aimed at boosting trade and investment with South Carolina, its third such deal with a US state, and is seeking similar deals with California and Utah.


  • The UK’s trade agreements
    UK government trade portal where trade agreements that the UK is negotiating and that the UK has already signed can be found, including texts of agreements.