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Is the UK About to Transform World Trade?

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DW-UK.On 12th December 2019, the United Kingdom will hold an election for the second time in less than three years. At stake is not just a choice between the free-market approach to the economy offered by Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party and the more Socialist, State-supported approach favoured by the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party. 

What this election promises is the chance to shape the global policy of the country for at least a generation. 

Exiting the European Union

In a June 2016 referendum, a clear majority of the United Kingdom electorate voted to leave the European Union of which the country has been a member since 1973. Now after three years of torturous negotiation and with the third Prime Minister since the referendum result, a divorce agreement has been concluded. While the UK government and the European Union are satisfied with the agreement the UK Parliament has refused to accept it with many Members of Parliament openly campaigning to prevent the country from leaving the EU. So marked is the difference of opinion between the Government and the country and the Parliament that while 408 of the 650 Parliamentary constituencies voted in favour of leaving the EU 479 of the Members of Parliament elected for those constituencies actively campaigned to remain in the European Union. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes that the December election will provide him with a majority of MPs who will pass the divorce agreement and begin the UK’s transition out of the EU. The Labour Party manifesto promises further negotiations with the EU followed by a referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain within it. Corbyn is himself unclear which way he would vote in such a referendum.

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A global future?

If the United Kingdom eventually decides to remain within the European Union or in a customs union with the EU then trade policy will still be set out by the Union and sovereignty will continue to flow from the UK Westminster Parliament to the European Institutions. If, however, the polls are correct and Johnson wins the upcoming election the UK will eventually exit the EU and something quite different will begin. If Johnson has his way a free trade agreement with the European Union will be in place by the end of 2020. Numerous trade negotiations have already begun with many non-European nations and as the UK is the fifth largest world economy we could be about to see a major shift in world trade away from Europe. Just this week, The United States has passed Germany and France as the most common trading partner for British businesses. With growing interest coming from London in rekindling trade with Commonwealth nations this could be just the beginning. Other countries are already seeking closer ties as the UK embraces a more global trade policy.

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