Brexit and Trade

Leaving the European Union will result in a significant shift in the UK’s trading relationship with the world, given that 63% of the UK’s current trade is covered by EU trade agreements. Academics from the UK Trade Policy Observatory have stated that the UK will need to negotiate ‘more than 100 new trade agreements if it leaves the EU customs union’. As part of the European Union, the UK’s trading relationships have been initiated at a European level, with the European Union Member States themselves being one of Britain’s biggest trade partners, and a major recipient of Welsh exports. Because of membership of the European Economic Community, then the EU, trade as a UK policy concept has largely been null and void for over a generation.

With trade deals having clear ramifications for the economy and living standards, through the price and accessibility of goods, trade is a critical aspect of the Brexit negotiations. From a public health perspective, any trade deal will inevitably involve products and services with a critical impact on the UK’s ability to improve population health, such as medicines, medical devices, as well as food and other consumer goods. There cannot be a clearer example of the need for a ‘health in all policies’ approach than in trade negotiations. As the UK Public Health Network states in its Healthy Trade briefing, ‘There is a window of opportunity for the public health community to 1) deepen its understanding of how trade impacts health and 2) establish a position on the kinds of protections needed in order to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of the public across the UK.’ This webpage aims to provide public health practitioners with insights into contemporary thinking about trade through a public health lens. 

Leaving the European Union will result in a significant shift in the UK’s trading relationship with the world, given that 63% of the UK’s current trade is covered by EU trade agreements. Academics from the UK Trade Policy Observatory have stated that the UK will need to negotiate ‘more than 100 new trade agreements if it leaves the EU customs union’. As part of the European Union, the UK’s trading relationships have been initiated at a European level, with the European Union Member States themselves being one of Britain’s biggest trade partners, and a major recipient of Welsh exports. Because of membership of the European Economic Community, then the EU, trade as a UK policy concept has largely been null and void for over a generation.

With trade deals having clear ramifications for the economy and living standards, through the price and accessibility of goods, trade is a critical aspect of the Brexit negotiations. From a public health perspective, any trade deal will inevitably involve products and services with a critical impact on the UK’s ability to improve population health, such as medicines, medical devices, as well as food and other consumer goods. There cannot be a clearer example of the need for a ‘health in all policies’ approach than in trade negotiations. As the UK Public Health Network states in its Healthy Trade briefing, ‘There is a window of opportunity for the public health community to 1) deepen its understanding of how trade impacts health and 2) establish a position on the kinds of protections needed in order to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of the public across the UK.’ This webpage aims to provide public health practitioners with insights into contemporary thinking about trade through a public health lens. 

Did you know?

In 2016, exports from Wales were worth £14.6 billion (Source: Welsh Government, ‘Trade Policy: the issues for Wales’)

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