The Post-Brexit Management of EU Agricultural Tariff Rate Quotas

Journal of World Trade, Vol. 51(4), 2017.

Posted: 25 Nov 2016 Last revised: 2 Sep 2018

See all articles by Chris Downes

Chris Downes

The European Consulting Company (ECCO)


Quantitative agricultural concessions are generally acknowledged to be one of the more complex post-Brexit issues facing trade negotiators. The challenge is commonly conceptualized as one of ‘splitting’ existing EU-28 obligations, namely tariff rate quotas (TRQs), between the UK and the remaining EU-27. While an intuitive response to the trading system's goal of maintaining the balance in negotiating concessions, this article questions the consistency of this approach with WTO law and reflects on the potential risks to the EU of renegotiating TRQs. The article further considers the process by which the UK will establish the post-Brexit form of its current obligations, exploring the merits and pitfalls of, on the one hand, negotiating modifications in accordance with GATT Article XXVIII and, on the other, non-negotiated certification of its revised schedules. It concludes that the UK may be prudent to seek Article XXVIII agreement with trading partners on newly articulated concessions and that the EU may be wise to leave current agricultural TRQs undisturbed. In the absence of a bilateral agreement between the UK and EU, the latter may be obliged to increase rather than reduce its quotas to remain in compliance with WTO obligations.

Keywords: WTO Law, Brexit, United Kingdom, Tariff Rate Quotas

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Downes, Chris, The Post-Brexit Management of EU Agricultural Tariff Rate Quotas. Journal of World Trade, Vol. 51(4), 2017., Available at SSRN: or

Chris Downes (Contact Author)

The European Consulting Company (ECCO) ( email )

Avenue de Tervueren 13A - Bte 7
Brussels, 1040

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