Tag: preferential trading

On 20 February, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced the date for the referendum on whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU. It will be on 23 June. The announcement followed a deal with EU leaders over terms of UK membership of the EU. He will argue strongly in favour of staying in the EU, supported by many in his cabinet – but not all.

Two days later, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said that he would be campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.

In the meantime, Mr Johnson’s announcement, the stance of various politicians and predictions of the outcome of the referendum are having effects on markets.

One such effect is on the foreign exchange market. As the Telegraph article below states:

The pound suffered its biggest drop against the dollar in seven years after London Mayor Boris Johnson said he will campaign for Britain to leave the European Union [‘Brexit’].

Sterling fell by as much as 2.12pc to $1.4101 against the dollar on Monday afternoon, putting it on course for the biggest one day drop since February 2009. Experts said the influential Mayor’s decision made a British exit from the bloc more likely.

The pound also fell by as much as 1.2pc to €1.2786 against the euro and hit a two-year low against Japan’s yen.

This follows depreciation that has already taken place this year as predictions of possible Brexit have grown. The chart shows that from the start of the year to 23 February the sterling trade weighted index fell by 5.3% (click here for a PowerPoint).

But why has sterling depreciated so rapidly? How does this reflect people’s concerns about the effect of Brexit on the balance of payments and business more generally? Read the articles and try answering the questions below.


Pound in Worst Day Since Banking Crisis as `Brexit’ Fears Bite Bloomberg, Eshe Nelson (21/2/16)
Pound hits 7-year low on Brexit fears Finiancial Times, Michael Hunter and Peter Wells (22/2/16)
Pound in freefall as Boris Johnson sparks Brexit fears The Telegraph, Szu Ping Chan (22/2/16)
Pound falls below $1.39 as economists warn Brexit could hammer households The Telegraph, Peter Spence (24/2/16)
Why is the pound falling and what does it mean for households and businesses? The Telegraph, Szu Ping Chan (23/2/16)
Pound heading for biggest one-day fall since 2009 on Brexit fears BBC News (22/2/16)
Cameron tries to sell EU deal after London mayor backs Brexit Euronews, Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden (22/2/16)
EU referendum: Sterling suffers biggest fall since 2010 after Boris Johnson backs Brexit International Business Times, Dan Cancian (22/2/16)

Exchange rate data
Spot exchange rates against £ sterling Bank of England


  1. What are the details of the deal negotiated by David Cameron over the UK’s membership of the EU?
  2. Why did sterling depreciate in (a) the run-up to the deal on UK EU membership and (b) after the announcement of the date of the referendum?
  3. Why did the FTSE100 rise on the first trading day after the Prime Minister’s announcement?
  4. What is the relationship between the balance of trade and the exchange rate?
  5. What are meant by the ‘six-month implied volatility in sterling/dollar’ and the ‘six-month risk reversals’?
  6. Why is it difficult to estimate the effect of leaving the EU on the UK’s balance of trade?

International trade brings various benefits to an economy. One is that it can stimulate economic growth – something the UK government would very much like to achieve in current circumstances.

As one of the components of aggregate demand, net exports is a key variable that can create jobs and growth in an economy, and it is this variable that is being directly targeted in a trade agreement between the UK and South Korea. Growth in developing countries is far outstripping that in the West and through this trade deal, the UK is hoping to benefit from some of this growth – to the tune of about £500m per year.

South Korea already trades a huge amount with the UK – we are its second largest European trade partner after Germany. The Free Trade Area that has been agreed will put British firms in a stronger position when negotiating contracts, especially in relation to sporting events, such as the Asian Games in 2014, the World Student Games in 2015 and the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018. Nick Clegg, who announced the agreement said:

‘The best of British design, innovation and services will have even greater opportunity to show their strength in South Korea. UK and Korean companies will be able to form alliances on multi-billion pound projects across the world.’

Some of the benefits of this agreement may be seen relatively soon, as the South Korea National Pension Service has announced plans to set up a base in London, which would create a much need injection of investment into the stagnant economy. This latest trade deal is very much a part of the Coalition’s strategy of creating stronger ties and trade links to the fast growing emerging markets. The size of these potential benefits and the speed with which they emerge can only be estimated, but if they do materialise they will undoubtedly have positive effects on economic growth. The following articles consider these ‘economic opportunities in the UK’.

Nick Clegg hails Korean trade deal as £2bn opportunity for Britain Telegraph, Anna White (25/3/12)
South Korea trade deal ‘may bring £500m to UK economy’ BBC News (26/3/12)
South Korea’s $320bn pension fund to set up London base Guardian (26/3/12)
S Korea pension fund to set up London office Financial Times, Elizabeth Rigby (25/3/12)
Nick Clegg boosts British business in South Korea The Economic Voice, Jeff Taylor (26/3/12)


  1. What are the benefits and costs of trade? To whom do they accrue?
  2. The articles talk about a free trade area. What are the characteristics of such an agreement?
  3. What other types of trade agreement are there? In each case, find examples of that type of agreement.
  4. Why is trade seen as an engine of growth? Think about aggregate demand and how this can explain a boost to national income.
  5. If the South Korea National Pension Service does create a base in London, explain how the multiplier effect might create additional benefits to the UK.