Post-Brexit trade policy in the UK: placebo policy-making?

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Trade policy and negotiations have lain at the heart of the Brexit process. Initial UK trade policy has been characterised by: (1) the need to limit the impact of changes in trading relations (mainly with the EU) to minimise challenges for businesses and the possibility of economic losses; (2) a strong ideological commitment to free trade, and related to that; (3) symbolic and ‘placebo’ actions designed to show that the UK can enact an independent trade policy. Negotiation of free trade agreements (FTAs), thus, became a priority of trade policy. This article explores how approaches to FTAs have evolved, focusing specifically on post-Brexit FTAs with Australasia. Overall, the desire to complete speedy agreements has at times trumped business and societal interests, and precluded the development of a coherent long-term UK FTA vision, revealing the symbolic motivation of being seen as ‘delivering Brexit’ behind the initial years of post-Brexit trade policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2492-2518
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number11
Early online date26 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023


  • Brexit
  • FTA
  • policy-making
  • post-Brexit
  • symbolism
  • trade policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations


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