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General election 2024: what does it mean for international trade?

Posted: 20/06/2024

The biggest issue currently facing international trade is sanctions, against a turbulent geopolitical background. Work advising banks that provide trade finance internationally on this area continues to increase, even though sanctions will be impacted far more by the U.S. election than the UK General Election.
While there is little in the manifestos of either Labour or the Conservatives that directly addresses trade, both parties agree that the financial services sector in the UK is extremely important. Whether or not the UK remains an attractive place to do business is crucial, particularly given ongoing struggles to maintain the country’s reputation since Brexit. However, although both parties maintain they are planning for growth, there is little detail in their manifestos as to how this will be achieved.
One area that could have a significant impact on trade is Labour’s promise to put the Bank of England back at the centre of green regulation, which the Conservative government dropped in November 2023. This move would sharpen the focus on compliance and greenwashing under a Labour government considerably. Increased environmental legislation in the UK would impact any international trade finance facilities that are distributed from here, which would have wide implications for exports, imports and supply chains. Already, our financial services litigations teams are increasing their work in this area. 
Though trade isn’t overtly addressed in the manifestos, there are many policies that will affect the UK’s position in the international trade landscape. A tax on independent school fees, for example, could affect many executives in the financial services sector who are based in the UK. The establishment of Great British Energy could be a catalyst for trade, depending on how projects approach imports and exports. It is safe to say that whichever party wins the General Election, the hurdles to trade within Europe resulting from Brexit will remain.  

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