Smaller countries have much a bigger “clout” on the international stage than EU members do, according to a new report. Countries such as Switzerland, which is outside the EU, can negotiate better trade deals with other nations than the European Union.
The study by the Civitas thank-tank also counters claims by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that Britain is “richer, stronger, safer” within the EU.
According to the Telegraph, Michael Burrage, a social scientist who wrote the report, found that “Switzerland has been more successful than the EU in negotiating free trade agreements,” after comparing its “clout” with the European Union.
This, according to the report, is because EU member states are held back by “conflicting interests, pressure groups delayed agreement about the negotiating stance to be taken”.
The report concludes: “Without these complications it would be possible to be a little more nimble in dealing with trading partners, and so it has turned out for Switzerland.”
Comparing the agreements the EU and Switzerland have in common, the report says that Switzerland has six agreements with countries that the EU does not: Singapore, the South American Customs Union, Japan, Canada, Ukraine, China and Hong Kong.
By contrast, the EU only has unique agreements with five relatively minor countries: Syria, Algeria, Central America, San Marino and Andorra.
Civitas told the Telegraph: “It seems that Switzerland, all on its own without any ‘clout’, has free trade agreements with some of the most important players in international trade.”
“Switzerland has made agreements with some of the biggest economies and ensured that proper weight was given to its own comparative advantages, whereas the UK has had to give way to the priorities of the European Commission.
“Over time this drawback has undoubtedly contributed to our economic stagnation.”