Dr Clair Gammage on Brexit, Trade

and the Laws behind them


February, 2018

Warwick Congress 2018 was fortunate to welcome its first speaker from the field of Law on Saturday afternoon, with a keynote speech on international trade agreements, the effects of Brexit and the law behind them from Dr Clair Gammage, Professor of Law at the University of Bristol.

“The global economy is complex not just because of globalisation but also because of technical innovation”

– Dr Clair Gammage

Dr Gammage began by talking about how Brexit has brought trade to the forefront, highlighting the complex aspects of trade. One of these complex aspects is the relationship between trade and non-trade values such as human rights and the environment. Dr Gammage said that the UK are bound by certain obligations by the EU, which makes trade in the wake of Brexit complicated. This means that the validity of trade agreements made during the time when the UK was an EU member are now in an uncertain position. This complication is made even more complex by the use vague and flexible language commonly used in trade agreements which allows for ever-shifting interpretation. On demystifying Brexit, she also discussed the myth that something between a customs union and a trade agreement can exist in the wake of the exit. Instead she predicted that the result will be one of the two.  

Dr Gammage also stated that the EU has a trade framework which incorporates social values and this may bring about doubt over which aspects of trade agreements are binding, adding another complex layer to Brexit. Ultimately, the EU has many clauses in place to make it difficult for countries to make trade agreements elsewhere, which as Gammage told us, will lead to more problems for the UK’s exit.

Away from Brexit, the topic of technological innovation was discussed. New technologies mean that we can get products and services across borders without them ever moving physically. This has also boosted the speed of trade but Dr Gammage stated that this has brought its own challenges which the World Trade Organisation are trying to offset by progressing in the way they operate. One example is the WTO’s opposition to protectionism which they see as backward and against worldwide interests.  However Professor Gammage said that this introduces the problem of global inequality with trade where developing countries do not have infrastructure in place which may lead to protectionist policies. Fundamentally,  in the wake of global upheaval with Brexit, trade is changing in many ways which may transcend the laws and regulation behind it.


Written by Chris Tynemouth. 

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