Russ Woodward and Tim Veal share some ideas for Incorporating the UK-EU Trade Agreement into Business and Economics Assessment Tasks at different levels of study.
The UK-EU post Brexit trade deal secured in December 2020 is a major step affecting the international business and economic environment of the UK going forward. This article offers suggestions as to how the deal can be incorporated into business/economic environment assessment tasks. The authors hope even those teaching predominantly at A level, where levels of response are more carefully calibrated and trigger words defined will value the multi-level scope of the approaches discussed here, as well as the variety in the mode or format of assessment task to be deployed. Key elements of required knowledge, application, analysis, argument and research will be touched upon along the way.
Comparison/Benchmarking Assessment Tasks
While compare and contrast might be a rather jaded question style, more challenging and motivating assessment questions can be drawn from it, such as The Deal is Brexit in Name Only or The Treaty is Virtually a No-Deal Brexit in Business Terms…….Discuss. The former links to the BRINO/BINO Brexit option, which several economists hoped for; the latter connects to the politicians’ argument that ‘no deal’ is better than a bad deal. The former question requires knowledge of the key parts of the deal as well as the core elements of EU membership. The main areas of commonality/difference for the former question would include tariff free trade as against customs union membership, regulatory product standards bureaucracy and travel limitations as against the single market freedom of movement, and freedom to strike trade deals with non-EU countries as against adherence to common external trade policy. The latter question would involve comparing the deal against WTO trade rules and policy independence. Tariff free trade and the conditions of regulatory alignment to ensure this continues may be the main elements of consideration here. A gentler and more prescriptive task in this vein could be: Highlight and Explain Three Business Economic Aspects of the Recent Brexit Deal. In what ways do they a) Resemble and/or b) Depart from EU membership? What should be noted here is that while these questions may make for interesting essays, they could also feature in presentations focussing on visuals showing matching and contrasting conditions.
Legal/Political vs Business/Economic Question Tasks
Another possible assessment question approach is to require students to separate the strictly legal/political aspects from the business/economy impacting aspects, essentially assessing the superficiality or business practicality of the touted gains from the deal. A question could take the following form: The Brexit deal – a Victory for Legal Patriotism but a Poor Return for UK Business…. Discuss. We note here again that the mapping of key elements can be undertaken, in line with a presentation visual, but with each element being graded between purely legal/political and business impact significant. Relevant task/action words pertaining to analysis here would include Categorise and Classify. In deeper examination, the political official aspects of policy independence and no prospects of answering to the European Court of Justice, may be examined against the requirement of regulatory alignment whereby sizeable divergence may result in arbitration and imposition of counterbalancing tariffs. Again, the changed conditions regarding trade relationships with the rest of the world, and the bureaucracy regarding trade and movement, would have a bearing on the business/economic substance.
Explicit Theory Deployment Questions
While application of theory may be vital to any question on the deal requiring a depth of answer – there may be questions which directly require it. They could take the form of Using at least One Theory of Trade/Investment, Outline and Analyse the Likely Business/Economic Impacts of the UK-EU Brexit Deal. Here, selection of theory might involve Comparative Advantage and the deal’s impacts on specialisation, or Krugman’s intra-industry trade theories which have fitted a lot of EU internal trade. Integration specific trade theory might include trade creation/diversion, where the former denotes trade grown from integration, and perhaps lost by Brexit, and the latter denotes trade lost from being an outside country when integration takes place. The notion of trade deflection may warrant inclusion if the UK’s openness to the outside world makes it a more attractive conduit to the European market than an EU customs union member state. Selection of theory on Foreign Direct Investment may use the Ownership/Location/Internalisation paradigm where the deal may be argued to affect the Locational and Internalisation Advantages of putting FDI into the UK.
Cost/Benefit Tasks Augmented by Probability/Impact Question Constructs.
A business economic costs and benefits or pros and cons task may be a staid format on its own, though it is an important implicit part of any question on the deal. However probability/impact attachments, like big picture risk assessments – can add to challenge and to interest. An example here could be a statement: ‘The Adverse Effects of the Brexit Deal are Assured; the Potential Benefits Remain Possibilities.’ Critically Evaluate this Statement with Regard to UK Business and the UK Business Environment in International Context. This kind of question is quite cognitively demanding – too much so for levels 3 and 4, better suited perhaps to levels 5 and 6 – and really goes to the heart of real world policy analysis. Nonetheless, there is scope for translating it into descriptive visuals in terms of putting each adverse/beneficial element into a risk analysis table, attaching a probability score to each.
Business Scenario Tasks – Decision/Consultancy/Campaigning
Firstly a task putting the student in charge, or advisory responsibility, for an internationalised business facing choices influenced by the Brexit Deal, e.g. setting up in the UK, setting up in the EU, or setting up elsewhere, to sell to the UK and EU. Though mimicking the business setting, there would still be scope for theory and acronym/tool deployment if it gave a telling/informative message. The assessment mode here could be report or presentation, with recommendations. The facility for group assessment would be strong here, with individual team members outlining and analysing the merits of a particular scenario/option. Quite rightly, group interaction would in practice be key to marks gained because a comparison based conclusion is needed and a disjointed scenario coverage would bring only limited reward. Other assessments, perhaps involving business to government interaction scenarios could be: [Presenting from Govt to Business] Highlight and analyse at least two aspects of the UK-EU deal that could recommend it to the British business community. And also conversely: [Presenting from Business to Govt] Highlight and analyse at least two aspects of the UK-EU deal that could represent concerns for the British business community. With scenario tasks perhaps being more fitting for business courses rather than economics, they can range from the complex and strategic coverage of scenario options for bachelors and perhaps MBA level, to the gentler coverage of the issues likely to be faced by exporters, e.g. for BTEC.
Article Excerpt Plus Questions
This approach closely fits to the Context/Scenario tasks in Economics A Level exams. There will be a vast number of articles from the quality media, business press and business groups on the impact of the deal. An excerpt/passage, perhaps sector specific or in broader economic environment terms could be the basis for a set of questions. Some questions could be small in marks terms requiring terminology knowledge interpreting phrases in the excerpt, for example the expressions free trade and customs union may be present, feeding to a question on distinguishing these. Other questions could be larger, stemming from the excerpt but requiring knowledge/understanding brought by the student. For example, an extract talking about trade impacts of the deal could feed through to a question asking students to highlight and explain ways in which the UK-EU trade treaty could encourage or diminish UK global exports and imports.
A View Across the Sectors – Differing Industries’ Impacts or Different Firm Size Impacts.
Asking students to assess Brexit deal impact differences between manufacturing and service sectors, may be very interesting given the salient importance of services in the UK economy. More specifically within this, there is also the fact that the UK’s finance sector access to the single market has not been covered/clarified in the Brexit deal. For questions asking for comparative bearing for SMEs and large firms, the established literature on SMEs and their relative disadvantages can be applied in the Brexit deal setting (e.g. onerous effect of regulations and administration, specialist management weaknesses, especially informational). The issue of direct vs indirect internationalisation, with the latter more applicable to SMEs, can also be used.
Business Environment Acronym Application
With regard to PEST: The Brexit UK-EU trade deal treaty can be seen as both Political and Economic. Many of the aspects already mentioned would fit under the P/E overlap, such as regulations unlikely to be reduced, bureaucracy at the border and tariff free trade. The flexibility to make trade deals with non-EU countries would also come under this.
There could also be consideration of S Social/Culture/Demographics in terms of the labour market in the UK changing as regards free movement/immigration with perhaps the proportion of EU CEEC (Central and Eastern European Countries) workers being diminished.
Looking at SWOT, we note S and W relate to the firm. T Threats may be better depicted as constraints and obligations in terms of regulations, bureaucracy, diminished access to EU CEEC workers. O Opportunities would include tariff free trade and the possibility of closer trading relations with specific non-EU countries.
Questions in Wider Studies that include Business/Economics.
Students may be doing economics and or business as part of a wider course, e.g. European Studies, which may include Politics, Law, Contemporary History/ Current Affairs, Society/Culture. Here questions may be more nuanced and contain political argument, e.g. questioning whether the UK has gone from EU membership, to ‘shadowing’ the EU, in terms of adhering to EU standards in many policy areas, in order to retain tariff free market access.
Concepts related to governance and policy approaches of relevance here and to other business environment based Brexit questions include the following: Intergovernmentalism denotes international policy cooperation where each nation’s government retains the right to decline participation, or even sometimes veto the process. Supranationalism denotes international organisation decision making ‘above’ the nation either by majority voting or by a central institution, with individual nations losing the right to decline if they want to stay in the group. The balance between these two decision making concepts in the EU in practice has been a key issue. Multilateralism relates to agreements, including on trade liberalisation, in which all concerned nations are taking part, while bilateralism denotes agreement between two countries, or two sides. The trade, competition and business gains from these agreement forms may differ significantly. These concepts are often covered in European Business or EU Business textbooks, which we here recommend for continued use on business courses – ideally the latest editions.
There is quite a premium on topicality here. Government, business lobby groups and think tanks are relevant. All are potentially biased, but very much up to date, and where they specify procedures businesses must follow, or guidance businesses need, this gives some practical clarity in terms of how the deal differs from customs union/single market. Economic/business Brexit impact projections that closely fit the trade deal scenario would be important, again taking note of context and source.
Conclusions and Pedagogic Reflections
These are just a few forms of assessment question and task regarding the UK-EU Brexit Trade Deal. As will be noticed, many of them rely on similar knowledge and understanding and this is not surprising for different assessment angles converging on the same content theme. They do however require different forms of cognitive task and different ways of framing or displaying that knowledge and understanding. As such, the learning objectives and outcomes which they can achieve are also likely to be varied, multi-level and wide-ranging. This variety also applies to modes and formats of assessment task in which they can be deployed – which is especially important on business courses. With regard to different cognitive levels of task, the Bloom cognitive domain language may be a useful guide; there is also the more numerous and detailed task stem words put forward by Anderson and Krathwohl with several terms under each Bloom classification.
Russ Woodward and Tim Veal teach at University Centre, Grimsby Institute of FHE.
References and Resources
Anderson, L. W., and Krathwohl, D. R. (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing. Abridged Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon
CBI (2020) CBI Responds as UK and EU Agree Brexit Deal. 24th December. Available at:
Hall, S./UK and EU (2020) What Does the Brexit Trade Deal Mean for Financial Services? UK in a Changing Europe. 27th December. Available at:
Helm, T./Guardian (2021) Baffling Brexit Rules Threaten Export Chaos, Gove is Warned. Available at:
Johnson, D, and Turner, C. (2016) European Business. 3rd Edition. Abingdon. Routledge.
UK Government (2021) Use the Brexit Checker Tool – Find Out What You Need to Know. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/transition