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05 December 2023

Trade 'unlikely to be key issue' at next general election

The importance of trade as an issue at the next general election in the UK is likely to remain low, according to a new report.

Strategic Trade Controls

Survey work carried out by a group of academics found that the public perception of trade and the government’s efforts to negotiate free trade agreements had declined since Brexit, with particularly sharp divides along political lines.

In 2019, some 66 per cent of those surveyed had a ‘very’ or ‘fairly positive’ impression of international trade compared to 57 per cent in 2022. And, regarding free trade agreements, positive impressions in 2019 stood at 42 per cent before dropping to 32 per cent in 2022.

The findings were revealed as part of a new report, the State of Public Opinion: 2023, published by the UK in a Changing Europe. The chapter on trade was co-authored by Professor Sofia Vasilopoulou, from the Department of European and International Studies at King’s.

Dr Daniel Keith and Dr Liisa Talving were co-authors of the report, which was published on 5 December.

The academics note: “Data shows that the public is divided on free trade agreements, but a large proportion of survey respondents replied that they did not know about the advantages or disadvantages that could be gleaned from them.

“If trade does come to play a more central role at elections, then much will depend on the government’s ability to provide the public with information on what it is aiming for when it signs partnerships with other countries and what the possible returns might be.”


You can read the report in full here.

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Sofia Vasilopoulou

Professor of European Politics