Jump to accessibility statement Skip to content

Brexit trade deal: Level playing field or slippery slope?

Home / More / News / Brexit trade deal: Level playing field or slippery slope?

Published on 12 January 2021

Professor Lawrence Bellamy
Professor Lawrence Bellamy

Amid rising infections and just prior to lockdown 3.0, Britain managed to secure a trade deal with the EU. Here, Professor Lawrence Bellamy from the University of Sunderland assesses whether we are winners or losers in the last minute agreement.


The UK completed its separation from the European Union (EU) on New Year's Eve at 23:00 GMT.

The UK had voted to leave the EU in 2016, by a margin of 52% to 48%.

An 11th hour trade deal was also secured much to the relief of many UK companies who had feared a ‘no-deal’ end to an already tumultuous 2020.

But was the trade agreement a triumph of negotiation for the British government or a case of just ‘grabbing what we can’. Professor Lawrence Bellamy is the Academic Dean for the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism at the University and an expert in manufacturing and construction and supply chain activities.

He said: “After the extensive negotiation period and failure to reach agreement any last minute deal was always going to contain a number of compromises.

“Depending whether your glass is ‘half-full or half-empty’ would perhaps impact on whether you believe any deal is better than no deal or not.

“This of course depends on which part of the deal you were in, a no compromise area or a tactical concession? It is clear though that the deal will bring with it greater certainty about the future and with it the ability to plan, whether you’re looking at the good times or the bad.

“Certain sectors really needed the certainty; finance and the City to mitigate a drift to the continent, advanced manufacturing to keep the EU market open and the parts of farming which deal with export for example.

“However, as with anything the ‘devil is in the detail’ and the ongoing agreement has clauses to comply with and will be subject to adjustment and drift over time as the relative economies refocus and rebalance to optimise their market reach.

“In the meantime the rationale for this move, opening up world economies and trying to gain advantage by removing some operating shackles remains the imperative, in light of the ‘level playing field’, whether you believe it is really level or not.”