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Lee Crawfurd is a senior research associate with CGD’s global education team. Previously he was an economist and advisor with the Governments of Rwanda, South Sudan, and the UK. He has also worked as a consultant for international organisations and NGOs including the World Bank, AfDB, and ADB. He has a PhD in economics from the University of Sussex and has studied at the University of Oxford and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.
This paper looks at how the UK can, after Brexit, develop a world-leading trade for development policy. It uses a systematic assessment of how rich country trade policies affect developing countries to identify the leading approaches used elsewhere. It then identifies and describes four key steps: i) eliminating or lowering tariffs; ii) improving preferential access for the very poorest countries; iii) cutting red tape at the border; and iv) enhancing the effectiveness of its aid for trade. These steps would enable the UK to improve substantially on the approach taken by the EU and other countries, benefit UK consumers and businesses, and set a new standard in trade policy for development.
The possibility of leaving the EU means that the UK now needs to revisit the questions of whether and for which countries to offer trade preferences, particularly since the key ‘enabling clause’ underpinning trade preferences does not confine preferences to least developed countries (LDCs). Let's explore the options.
If the UK leaves the EU (as unfortunately seems most likely), the single market, and customs union, it will need to decide on a new schedule of tariffs for imported goods from both Europe and other countries. One of the options being touted is the unilateral removal of tariffs on all goods, as Hong Kong and Singapore do. There are three main possible objections to this approach based on UK interests, and one for developing countries, none of which are entirely convincing.
More than a million migrants and refugees arrived in Europe in 2015, with thousands dying in the attempt to cross by sea. EU development policy has swung into action, in an attempt to address the “root causes” of the movement of people. But this rapid reaction has led to some poor decisions, with the potential to waste a lot of money, and potentially cause serious harm.