Britain’s membership of the European Union has no positive impact on trade with other EU nations, according to a new study. In fact, British exports to fellow EU countries have grown slower than exports to non-EU members, while UK trade with nations outside the EU has increased dramatically.
The report by think-tank Civitas says that the claim that being part of the EU gives the UK a trade advantage is “empty rhetoric”, and that Britain’s trade with EU nations accounts for no more of its trade than it did when joining the European Economic Community in 1973.
At the same time, exports to Norway, Iceland and Switzerland have increased enormously.
The report’s author, Michael Burrage, writes: “While the share of UK exports to fellow EU members has been virtually stable, the share going to non-members in Europe has risen steadily, leading one to suspect that both insider advantages and outsider disadvantages are imaginary.”
“Thus far, the Single Market has not enabled UK exports of goods or services to other members to grow at a faster rate than those of non-member exporters, nor at a faster rate than UK exports to non-member markets. It has been an era of decline for UK exporters, relative to both non-members in the same market, and to UK exports to other markets.”
This study directly contradicts Nick Clegg’s assertion that Britain is “richer, stronger, safer” inside the EU and that the UK must remain a member to protect its “clout” on the world stage. Indeed, the study says that there is no evidence of any “clout” in helping secure Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The EU had 25 FTAs in force 2012, while Switzerland independently negotiated 26.
Burrage writes that this disproves the claim that Britain enjoys an ‘insider advantage’ within the EU: “The growth of UK exports to other founder members of the Single Market was low when compared with UK exports prior to its launch, when compared with the exports of goods of 27 non-members to the other founder members of the Single Market, and when compared with the exports of services of 21 non-members to the other founder members. It was also low when compared to UK exports to non-member countries.
“To accept the idea that, despite the absence of prima facie evidence of insider advantages, the UK exporters have nonetheless benefited from them obliges one to accept some scarcely credible, counter-factual propositions.”