The Economic Impacts of Brexit on the UK, its Regions, its Cities and its Sectors

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, “The Economic Impacts of Brexit on the UK, its Regions, its Cities and its Sectors” project started in April 2017 and is part of a series of 25 projects funded by ESRC to support the initiative UK in a Changing Europe coordinated by Professor Anand Menon at King’s College London.

The findings from our recent research suggest that the UK’s cities and regions which voted for Brexit are also the most economically dependent on EU markets for their prosperity and viability. This is a result of their differing sectoral and trade composition. Different impacts are likely for different sectors, and also different impacts are likely between sectors, and these relationships also differ across the country’s regions. Some sectors, some regions and some cities will be more sensitive and susceptible to any changes in UK-EU trade relations which may arise from Brexit than others and their long-run competitiveness positions will be less robust and more vulnerable than others.

This suggests that these sectoral and regional differences need to be very carefully taken into account in the context of the national UK-EU negotiations in order for the post-Brexit agreements to be politically, socially as well as economically sustainable across the country. 


This project aims to examine in detail the likely impacts of Brexit on the UK’s sectors, regions and cities by using the most detailed regional-national-international trade and competition datasets.

The quantitative research will allow us to understand the role in shaping UK regional trade behaviour which is played by global value-chains, whereby goods and services crisscross borders multiple times before being finally consumed by household and firms. The UK is heavily integrated with the rest of the EU via such global value-chains and reshaping the future post-Brexit UK trade arrangements with the EU will also involve reconfiguring these global value-chains. Our data allows us to examine the impacts of different trade scenarios and to map out the sensitivity of UK sectors and regions to different post-Brexit scenarios. Brexit will also reshape the national and international competiveness rankings of the UK regions and again our data allows us to examine the likely long run changes which will arise.

At the same time, these changes will also all have profound implications for the design and governance of UK city and regional development policy logic and settings. Our quantitative research will, therefore, also be undertaken in parallel with qualitative research based on key stakeholder engagement sessions. Participatory workshops with city, regional and national stakeholders will be organised in order to develop alternative post-Brexit scenarios for empirical analysis as perceived by the city and regional as well as national institutions.

The team

The core project research consortium is comprised of five scholars with a combined expertise which is reflected in over 4000 ISI journal citations, 6500 Scopus journal citations, and some 20,000 Google Scholar citations, and in 2016 alone they accounted more than 700 ISI journal citations and 1100 Scopus journal citations. They are:

  • Professor Raquel Ortega-Argilés, Professor of Regional Economic Development, Birmingham Business School, Principal Applicant and Project Coordinator
  • Professor Philip McCann, Professor of Urban and Regional Economics, University of Sheffield Management School: Co-Applicant
  • Professor Bart Los, Professor of Economics, Department of Global Economics and Management, University of Groningen
  • Professor Frank van Oort, Professor of Urban Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Professor of Economic Geography, University of Utrecht
  • Dr Mark Thissen, Senior Researcher, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and Research Fellow, Erasmus University Rotterdam and University of Utrecht
  • Dr Pieter Ijtsma, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Economics and Business
  • Dr Nicola Cortinovis, Post-doctoral Researcher, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Dr Chloe Billing, Post-doctoral researcher, City-REDI, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Deniz Sevinc, Post-doctoral researcher, City-REDI, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Wen Chen, Post-doctoral researcher, Department of Global Economics and Management, University of Groningen

All of the project team are highly experienced academic analysts who are experienced coordinating international academic research consortia. They are also well versed in working alongside societal stakeholders ranging from local businesses and community organisations, through to local and national governments, and up to international organisations.

Project collaborators

  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Groningen
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
  • Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) North
  • Policy Scotland
  • Department of Business, Innovation and Skills BEIS LGA
  • Respublica
  • Centre for Cities (CfC)
  • West Midlands Combined Authority


Economic impacts on the UK, its regions, cities and sectors

Chair of Regional Economic Development and University of Birmingham lead Professor Raquel Ortega-Argiles offers an overview of the project.


Academic papers and policy briefings

Mark Thissen, Frank van Oort, Philip McCann, Raquel Ortega-Argiles & Trond Husby (November 2020), The implications of Brexit for UK and EU regional competitiveness, Economic Geography

Chloe Billing, Philip McCann, Raquel Ortega-Argilés, Deniz Sevinc (November 2020), UK analysts’ and policy-makers’ perspectives on Brexit: challenges, priorities and opportunities for subnational areas, Regional Studies

IJtsma, P. and  Los, B., (May 2019) Brexit Employment Risks by Occupation

Billing, C. ; McCann, P. and Ortega-Argiles, R. (Feb 2019), Interregional Inequalities and UK Sub-National Governance Responses to Brexit, Regional Studies.

Mark Thissen; Maureen Lankhuizen; Frank (F.G.) van Oort; Bart Los; Dario Diodato (2018), EUREGIO: The construction of a global IO DATABASE with regional detail for Europe for 2000-2010, Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper, TI 2008-084/VI 

Bailey, D. ; McCann, P. and Ortega-Argiles, R. (2018) Could Brexit spell the end for “just-in-time” production?, Prospect Magazine

Ortega-Argiles et al. (2018) How Brexit will hit different UK regions and industries (The Conversation) , The Conversation UK, February 9 2018

Ortega-Argiles et al. (2017) Analysing the continental divide?, AgendaNI, 20 December 2017

Chen, W., Los, B., McCann P., Ortega-Argiles R., Thissen M., van Oort F (2017) Exposure to Brexit in regions on both sides of the Channel, Vox EU, 19 December 2017

Chen, W., Los, B., McCann, P., Ortega-Argiles, R., Thissen, M., van Oort, F (2018) The Continental Divide? Economic Exposure to Brexit in Regions and Countries on both Sides of the ChannelPapers in Regional Science, 97(1), 25-54, DOI: 10.1111/pirs.12334.

Los, B., Chen, W., McCann, P., Ortega-Argiles, R. (2017) An Assessment of Brexit Risks for 54 Industries: Most Services Industries are also Exposed 2017, City-REDI Policy Briefing series, December 2017

Blogs and articles


Report contributions

Report citations

Reports where our research has been mentioned

Media coverage

Regional participatory workshop presentations

"The Economic Impacts of Brexit in Europe" event - 22 Feb 2019, Brussels

City-REDI, supported by ESRC, The UK in a Changing EU, hosted a Brexit Summit to bring together political and business leaders, together with academics and European leaders to discuss the likely impact of Brexit in the European regions and to agree the urgent actions that need to be taken in the crucial months ahead.


Mr Stuart Mitchell, 
Centre Manager, City-REDI

Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9673


For any enquiries regarding this project please contact:

Raquel Ortega-Argilés,
City-REDI Institute,
Birmingham Business School,
University of Birmingham

Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6761

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City REDI Brexit roadshow highlights

Over two weeks in May 2018 we visited 4 major UK cities to present research findings from the project. We brought political and business leaders together with academics and civil society organisations to discuss the likely impacts of Brexit and actions that needed to be taken.

Professor Raquel Ortega-Argiles presents at the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences

Project lead Professor Raquel Ortega-Argiles presents at the ESRC Festival of Social Science event 'Brexit: The Road Ahead' on 7 November 2017.

Project team member Professor Bart Los presents some of the findings and analysis in a video from the University of Groningen.

Project team member Professor Bart Los presents some of the findings and analysis in a video from the University of Groningen.