Project: Asia Programme, EU-China 2025

Senior Consulting Fellow, Asia Programme (based in Hong Kong)

For Beijing, the EU–China relationship will take priority over UK–China ties – with China’s relative focus on Germany becoming even more significant.

Containers are loaded onto a freight train ahead of departure from DP World London Gateway’s rail freight depot in Corringham, on 10 April 2017, en route to Yiwu in the Chinese province of Zhejiang. Photo: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images.Containers are loaded onto a freight train at a depot in Corringham, east of London, en route to Yiwu, China, on 10 April 2017. Photo: Getty Images.


  • The extent of current UK relations with China means that Brexit will notably reduce the scale and diversity of overall EU–China economic and commercial interactions. But the impact will vary across different areas.
  • In policy terms, liberal voices on economic policy towards China will be somewhat weaker among the post-Brexit EU27. Brexit will not be the most important factor determining the future level of strategic coherence in EU policy towards China.
  • The impact on post-Brexit EU27 trade with China will be felt both in the volume of trade and its composition. Following Brexit the EU will no longer be China’s largest trading partner.
  • There will be some relative shift in Chinese investment in Europe away from the UK, though over time the impact of Europe-wide policy approaches to Chinese investment will have more impact than Brexit per se.
  • EU–China educational exchanges will be weakened after Brexit, but inbound Chinese tourism will be less affected by Brexit.
  • By 2025, the EU will have compensated for Brexit’s impact in some areas, but much depends on the EU’s own trajectory over the next decade.
  • For Beijing, the EU–China relationship will take priority over UK–China ties. Within the EU, China’s relative focus on Germany will be even more significant.