Free Trade and Protectionism in the Age of Global Britain

Examining the social dynamics of the UK’s future trade policy

This is the first of a series of papers from the British Foreign Policy Group exploring the social dimensions of the UK’s forthcoming national conversation surrounding the launch of its independent trading policy. We begin with a literature review of existing public opinion research, including surveys conducted by the British Foreign Policy Group, and the broader evidence base surrounding social attitudes towards trade, globalisation and open societies. We then move to examine the likely constituencies on the social side of Britain’s emerging trade ecosystem and consider how they are likely to defend their interests and cultivate public support. More broadly, we examine what it means to be undertaking this exercise in this particular moment, with our political landscape so heavily influenced by the consequences of what many citizens have perceived to be ‘unfettered globalisation’.

This is not an exercise in calculating the value of Free Trade Agreements, nor does it provide economic analysis on the likely trajectory of the UK economy, nor make any judgement on the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Rather, these papers are entirely focused on the social dimensions of the trade conversation, and considering how best the case for an open, connected British trade policy can be made, in an era of rising social and economic insecurity. The British Foreign Policy Group supports free trade as a means of supporting a liberal, prosperous world. We also champion the UK maintaining and improving its agricultural, animal welfare, and environmental standards. And we are fierce advocates for ensuring that public consent is sought and secured towards our international engagement. None of these ambitions and priorities are mutually exclusive, and, we believe, all can and should be reconciled together in the UK’s new independent trading policy.



Sophia Gaston

Sophia is the Director of the British Foreign Policy Group.