Professor Simon Usherwood explains the difference between how negotiations usually work for Free Trade Agreements, removing non-tariff barriers between countries... and how it actually works for Brexit.

First published in September 2020.

Here is another go at explaining the unusual nature of Brexit, in regard of managing non-tariff barriers (the main part of modern free trade agreements).

In pretty much every case, things work like this: difference -> less difference.

(if you want to be picky, then the deal can be anywhere between State A’s policy and State B’s: the important point is the closing of the gap.)

But in Brexit, you already have closed all of the areas of difference (through membership), so now you are managing more difference (or the possibility of more difference).

The problem is that you have no fall-back for this: the UK cannot simply continue with its membership-era policies, because those rely on, um... membership, even if it wanted to, which it doesn’t.

But then it is a problem of what comes next.

Which largely we don’t know.


Professor Simon Usherwood, Professor at the University of Surrey.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 23 September 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Needpix.)

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