Six things I’ve learnt since the Brexit referendum: seeing both the wood and the trees

Woodland in mist, cropped

This is long, self-indulgent, and largely a memo to self.

Brexit is unprecedented.

The past few months have been a huge learning opportunity for all of us, in my case even within the narrow (but important) field of WTO rights and obligations.

What have I learnt?

— January 9, 2017

Types of a possible future UK-EU trade deal

Containers at Antwerp

All you need to know about customs unions, free trade areas, rules of origin, the single market and agriculture. By Alan Swinbank, Reading University — January 10, 2017

The limits of ‘possibility’: Splitting the lamb-mutton quota for the UK and EU–27

sheep-bw-squareThis is an exercise in applying the “latest 3-year average” rule to the tariff quota on lamb and mutton.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has announced the UK will “replicate as far as possible” the EU’s commitments in the WTO.

This is a sound approach. But how far is “as far as possible”? — January 6, 2017

Read on …

Can EU law really dictate World Trade Organization rules?


This is a genuine question. I don’t know the answer. Hopefully some lawyers can help explain why the WTO and EU are trying to dodge the question of how to count the organisation’s members — December 1, 2016

Read on …

 Brexit, agriculture, the WTO, and uncertainty

EU External Affairs and EU Internal Market sub-committees, 8 September 2016

Written replies to questions for the inquiry of the UK House of Lords’ EU External Affairs Sub-Committee on Brexit: future trade between the UK and the EU

‘There is still a considerable amount of uncertainty because we don’t know the answer to three underlying questions …’ — October 22, 2016

In a nutshell: Brexit and the UK’s trading relations with the EU

Nutshell UK EU Brexit tradeFive graphics summarising the four main options facing the UK for its trade relationship with the EU after Brexit.

The four options are well-known but their implications are not always understood.

More …  — September 19, 2016

Oranges: a litmus test of UK post-Brexit tariff negotiations


The UK currently charges complex import duties on oranges thanks to the EU. Will they survive Brexit? And will other countries want a say? Exploring post-Brexit tariffs: part 3
More …  — September 10, 2016

How seriously should we view G20 words on resisting protectionism?

Hangzhou_1412 sq small monoEvery declaration by G20 leaders since 2012 has pledged to resist protectionism.

Their record has not matched their rhetoric — Updated September 6, 2016

More …

Is the UK government planning dodgy ‘access’ to the EU market?

Banking and cars sq BWProposed special deal with the EU on cars or banking could be illegal.

References to “access to the single market” are also misleading — the UK will have access to the EU single market after Brexit. That’s dead certain.   More …  — August 29, 2016

Book review: How ‘Dialogue of the Deaf’ produced a sound tool for policy-making

TRIPS book cover_160x160Book review first published on IP-Watch, October 22, 2015

“This should bury a number of myths. The memoirs of 17 key authors of a WTO agreement plus an editor’s remarks make a unique account of a complex international negotiation almost miraculously producing a deal” More … — August  26, 2016

This EU tariff takes the biscuit

sweet-almond-biscuits-cookies square - pexels - lifeofpixTaking the biscuit. If Brexit manages to get rid of this EU monstrosity, it will indeed be an achievement. Time for the UK to act. After all, it has been complicit for decades. Exploring post-Brexit tariffs: part 2
More … — August 18, 2016

Plus a really nerdy look at annex 1. The EU’s complex tariffs on these products are in its WTO commitments You have been warned … — August 18, 2016

Second bite — how simple is the UK-WTO relationship post-Brexit?

The_Watermelon_50pct cropped square_Elyse_Ashton_eating_cherriesMuch of the divergent opinion boils down to differing assumptions.

We can probably do better than ‘just take your pick’ because there is evidence available to assess at least some assumptions — August 17, 2016

More …

The Hilton beef quota: a taste of what post-Brexit UK faces in the WTO

Bear with me. This can be pretty complicated, if not downright murky. Exploring post-Brexit tariffs: part 1 — August 10, 2016       More …

TRQ_Aaron Van De Pol, Cologine Germany Unsplash CC0

The race for the first ever WTO amendment: some key facts

TFA and Par.6 acceptances to 9.1.17Two amendments to the World Trade Organization agreements are in a race to be the first to take effect since the organisation was set up in 1995. One is on access to medicines, the other on cutting red tape at the border.

To achieve that they need 110 ratifications, two thirds of the WTO’s 164 members.

Which will win? — Updated January 9, 2017


Three thoughts on the Brexit referendum


Welcome to fantasyland.

  • Are the toughest Brexit negotiations likely to be within the UK itself?
  • Anyone for a ‘Swiss option’?
  • Drug prices, bent bananas, TTIP — have the media missed a trick?

— June 29, 2016       More …

Nothing simple about UK regaining WTO status post-Brexit

European Parliamnet hpgruessen Cropped CC0pugblic domain

It’s complex enough to fuel the arguments of campaigners on both sides, delight trade lawyers, and frustrate everyone else — June 7, 2016       More

WTO amendment on access to medicines faces EU conundrum

conundrum-pull-quote-110-membersOnly three more ratifications are needed for the WTO’s first ever amendment to take effect.

Or is it … FOUR?

The World Trade Organization is finally close to achieving an amendment to its rules. Only a handful of members still need to formally accept new provisions dealing with one aspect of access to medicines.

But how many, exactly?
— Original April 14, 2016. Updated November 30, 2016