Brexit, Trade and the Governance of Non-communicable Diseases: A Research Agenda

Benjamin Hawkins*, Pepita Barlow, May van Schalkwyk, Chris Holden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The UK’s post-Brexit trade strategy has potentially important implications for population health and equity. In particular, it will impact on the structural risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including the
consumption of health-harming commodities such as tobacco, alcohol and ultra-processed food and beverages. This article catalogues recent developments in UK trade policy. It then presents a narrative review of the existing research literature on trade and health and previous, prospective studies on the health impacts of Brexit. In so doing it identifies key questions and foci for a future research agenda on the implications of UK’s emerging trade regime for NCD prevention.
Main text: We identify five key areas for future research. (1) Additional scholarship to document the health effects of key trade agreements negotiated by the UK government; (2) The implications of these agreements for policy-making to address health impacts, including the potential for legal challenges under dispute settlement mechanisms; (3) The strategic objectives being pursued by the UK government and the extent to which they support or undermine public
health; (4) The process of trade policy-making, its openness to public health interests and actors and the impact of the political and ideological legacy of Brexit on outcomes; (5) The impact of the UK’s post-Brexit trade policy on partner countries and blocs and their cumulative impact on the global trade regime.
Conclusions: Further research is urgently need to understand the ways in which the UK’s post-Brexit trade strategy will impact on NCDs and policy responses to address these, including the openness of the trade policy architecture
to health issues. The outcomes of this process will have wider systemic effects on the global trade regime with implications for health. Researchers must be cognizant of the ideological components of the policy debate which have been absent from previous analysis of Brexit, trade and health.
Original languageEnglish
Article number61
Number of pages13
JournalGlobalization and Health
Early online date23 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

© The Authors 2023


  • Brexit, Trade, Health, Non-communicable diseases, Industry, Policy-making, UK

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