Professor Andrew Lang talks to our Brexit Group about the World Trade Organisation

  • News

15 January 2019

Are you Brexit ready?

What might happen if we have a ‘no deal’ Brexit? We welcomed Professor Andrew Lang, Chair in International Law and Global Governance at the University of Edinburgh, to our Brexit Group in December. Professor Lang talked to us about the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the parallels and differences between WTO agreements, EU membership and the current draft Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration.

As Brexit continues to cause trade uncertainty, the session gave our Brexit Group experts a unique insight into issues our clients may face of under a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Could the UK fall back on its WTO membership? This was one of the many questions answered by Professor Lang at the session.  The talk also explored how the WTO basic content and principles differ from current EU rules; how businesses and their advisers find their way round WTO rules when planning for a no deal scenario.

What the session covered

  • ‘No Deal’: what does trading on WTO terms mean?
  • The Draft Withdrawal Agreement
  • The UK and Free Trade Agreements: looking ahead

Professor Lang also provided analysis on what this means for many of our client industries - agriculture, food & drink, hospitality, retail, financial services, manufacturing, construction, transport and logistics amongst them.

What the expert said

Professor Andrew Lang, Chair in International Law and Global Governance at the University of Edinburgh, commented:

It was great to have the opportunity to come along and talk to Anderson Strathern’s Brexit experts. The application of WTO rules to trade relations between the UK and the EU is often understood as relevant only in the event of 'no-deal'. But the reality is that, after Brexit, WTO law will apply between the EU and the UK, alongside and in addition to any other agreements that are negotiated.

This means that UK businesses, in a post-Brexit future, will need to understand what rights and remedies are available to them under WTO law. On one hand, it is true that a sudden transition to WTO-only terms is likely to cause considerable disruption for UK-based importers and exporters. On the other, the WTO system can have real benefit for exporters seeking to limit the commercial impact of a range of trade barriers, from customs formalities and border inspections, to subsidies and regulatory issues, among others.

Bruce Farquhar, Chair of Anderson Strathern, said:

Thanks to Professor Lang for coming along to discuss many of the challenges and opportunities we and our clients face as Brexit progresses. Looking at how the WTO rules compare to EU membership, the current draft Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration has put some things into perspective for us in helping our clients with scenario planning, trade preparations and business as usual. We hope to be able to welcome Professor Lang to the firm again in 2019 as things progress for us and our clients.

Neil Amner, Director and Brexit Group Lead at Anderson Strathern added:

Although EU rules have some parallels with the current WTO content and principles, the conclusion of the session was that WTO law provides for trading arrangements which differ considerably from single market arrangements. Consideration that WTO law will not always provide full and adequate solutions to many of the cliff edge problems a no deal Brexit may mean for the UK has to be part of our scenario planning.

Our team can assist with your practical preparations for Brexit. Contact us, whether you need to secure additional storage space, adjust your banking facilities, review your supply chain contractual rights and obligations, prepare for trading on an international basis or address employment law concerns.