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Brexit and trade policy: an analysis of the governance of UK trade policy and what it means for health and social justice

van Schalkwyk, May C.I., Barlow, Pepita, Siles-Brügge, Gabriel, Jarman, Holly, Hervey, Tamara and McKee, Martin (2021) Brexit and trade policy: an analysis of the governance of UK trade policy and what it means for health and social justice. Globalization and Health, 17 (1). ISSN 1744-8603

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Identification Number: 10.1186/s12992-021-00697-1


Background: There is an extensive body of research demonstrating that trade and globalisation can have wide-ranging implications for health. Robust governance is key to ensuring that health, social justice and sustainability are key considerations within trade policy, and that health risks from trade are effectively mitigated and benefits are maximised. The UK’s departure from the EU provides a rare opportunity to examine a context where trade governance arrangements are being created anew, and to explore the consequences of governance choices and structures for health and social justice. Despite its importance to public health, there has been no systematic analysis of the implications of UK trade policy governance. We therefore conducted an analysis of the governance of the UK’s trade policy from a public health and social justice perspective. Results: Several arrangements required for good governance appear to have been implemented – information provision, public consultation, accountability to Parliament, and strengthening of civil service capacity. However, our detailed analyses of these pillars of governance identified significant weaknesses in each of these areas. Conclusion: The establishment of a new trade policy agenda calls for robust systems of governance. However, our analysis demonstrates that, despite decades of mounting evidence on the health and equity impacts of trade and the importance of strong systems of governance, the UK government has largely ignored this evidence and failed to galvanise the opportunity to include public health and equity considerations and strengthen democratic involvement in trade policy. This underscores the point that the evidence alone will not guarantee that health and justice are prioritised. Rather, we need strong systems of governance everywhere that can help seize the health benefits of international trade and minimise its detrimental impacts. A failure to strengthen governance risks poor policy design and implementation, with unintended and inequitable distribution of harms, and ‘on-paper’ commitments to health, social justice, and democracy unfulfilled in practice. Although the detailed findings relate to the situation in the UK, the issues raised are, we believe, of wider relevance for those with an interest of governing for health in the area of international trade.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Health Policy
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2021 12:03
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 18:33

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