UCL Faculty of Laws


BREXIT as international trade governance

15 November 2017, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm


Event Information

Open to





UCL Faculty of Laws


UCL JZ Young Lecture Theatre, Anatomy Building, Gower Street

Speaker: Professor Fiona Smith, University of Leeds
Chair: Dr Danai Azaria, UCL

This talk is part of the International Law Association (British Branch) Lecture Series.

About this talk

On 29th March 2017, the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, gave notice to the European Council President, Donald Tusk, of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union (EU). The UK is now engaged in complex discussions with the EU to determine the terms of the withdrawal agreement and the UK-EU trade relationship after BREXIT. Whatever its final form, the EU-UK trade agreement must conform to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and be acceptable to the other WTO member states. The WTO rules are only partial, however, and were not designed to facilitate the withdrawal of a state from a regional trade agreement, the consequent contraction of an area of previously liberalised trade nor the potential (re)emergence of ‘protectionist’ trade barriers. The EU-UK trade agreement must transcend this problem by creating legally binding trade rules in an otherwise vacant multilateral legal space. At the same time, the EU-UK trade agreement will also redefine the terms on which third country WTO members trade with the EU. This occurs because preferential trade terms enjoyed by third countries with the EU cease to exist when they are reallocated to the UK alone and the intrinsic value of those preferential trade terms changes after BREXIT. The scale of the change means BREXIT represents a reordering of the terms of trade both between the EU and non-EU WTO members. In this paper, I explore the idea that this rule creation and reordering of trade relations is a new form of trade governance that reinvigorates the multilateral rule-making project in the WTO.

About the speaker

Fiona Smith is Professor of International Economic Law at the University of Leeds. She joined the Law School in 2017 having previously held positions at University of Warwick and UCL. She has also been Visiting Professor at several law schools in the USA, including University of Minnesota, University of Michigan and Boston College Law School. Her research focuses on international trade law in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and she has a specialist interest in international agricultural trade. Fiona is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Economic Law and serves as the journal’s European Book Review Editor. Fiona has worked with industry and with farmers’ groups on the possible impact of BREXIT and in 2017, she was appointed Specialist Advisor for the House of Lords for its Report on BREXIT and Agriculture.


Please contact the UCL Laws events team on laws-events@ucl.ac.uk if you have any queries about the event