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Mythbust

EU doesn’t need UK more than we need it

by Hugo Dixon | 07.04.2016

Myth: EU needs us more than we need it

InFact: Eurosceptics are fond of pointing out that we have a big trade deficit with the EU – £62 billion in 2014. Other member states would, they say, lose more if our trading relationship broke down. In fact, we’d be the desperate ones. Our exports to the EU make up 13% of our GDP, but the EU’s exports to Britain represent just 3% of its GDP.

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This article is an adaptation of a piece that previously appeared on InFacts.

Hugo Dixon is the author of The In/Out Question: Why Britain should stay in the EU and fight to make it better. Available here for £5 (paperback), £2.50 (e-book)

Edited by Hugo Dixon

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7 Responses to “EU doesn’t need UK more than we need it”

  • oh I get it because you can lump the whole EU together (I bet you didn’t even bother subtracting us from the eu total before coming up with 3%) and poetry it as a small percentage they won’t be bothered…utter nonsense. The reality is there won’t be a trade war, while you don’t consider 60billion a lot of money I’m sure those that stand to lose out on it would…self interest will prevail . This site is full of opinion and little fact…

    • The EU remains the EU even after a UK exit, so the conclusion is still factual: EU won’t be hurt with a Brexit. Proof on top of the numbers is in reading continental newspapers and tv news: nobody cares about a Brexit. “Up to you lot – EU doesn’t care if you leave”. Actually it would be better if UK left, then it can develop further without the UK interfering all the time. See how the UK will prosper, without Scotland and without the City.

    • They don’t need to subtract the UK from the 3% they quote as it’s what the EU exports to the UK! It’s what they export to us! We can’t export to ourselves now, can we? These figures are provided by Eurostat and ONS GDP and ONS Pink Book 2015 using average exchange rates from HM Tresury, not by this website, I’m pretty sure they have a reasonable idea of how to subtract one number from another.
      What you have stated yourself is an opinion, your opinion, you complain that there are no facts but you don’t quote any yourself, if you could please quote the figures you have (and their reliable source/s) which contradict what is shown in the article then I would be happy to look at them, maybe you could even change my mind on the subject. And what does poetry have to do with anything?

    • It’s a shame “Infacts” can’t be straight. Quoting trade % is sneaky. Of COURSE we import far more from Europe than we export in VALUE terms, so eu would do a deal straightaway if we left. (And I think I’m voting to stay!)

  • There is an inconsistency with the Leave campaign position.

    When asked about the importance of an EU/UK trade deal the say “trade us important, trade deals are not” and in a sense they are right, we can and do trade without trade deals.

    Then they cite the ability to create trade deals with the rest of the world and US as a key advantage. I thought “trade was important, trade deals are not”?

    Regarding any negotiations just because we buy more than we sell from the EU des not put us in the driving seat. The relative importance of trade to each party is the key.

    Azerbaijan buys more from than it sells to the UK. Are they in the driving seat during any UK/Azerbaijan trade talks?…

    • No inconsistency. Trade is important, trade deals are not. But IF another country really wants a trade deal (or if a future UK government decides we really need one) then an independent UK is better placed to negotiate one unconstrained by the special interests of non-UK countries. At least that will be democratic and transparent, compared to EU back-room machinations.

      As for “the relative importance of trade to each country is the key” – I’m afraid you’re demonstrating you don’t understand international trade theory. When you talk about 3pc of EU GDP (which is a foolish under-estimate as pointed out by cereus, above, “in fact” it’s about 8pc but let’s not quibble) you are still talking about a £62bn surplus. Surely the EU would invest effort and attention commensurate with that amount of money? “In fact” that is part of the whole EU proposition, that as a bigger bloc it is better able to invest in these “trade deals”. “In fact” the EU proudly proclaims the trade deals that it has made with much, much smaller partners than the UK, with much, much smaller surpluses.

      But the more principled reason to bin this “in fact” rubbish is that it illustrates the complete faith, among those that oppose the independent UK, that the EU is a protectionist institution – and that is a position worth defending, rather than escaping from.

  • It seems unlikely that the UK standing alone will be able to negotiate more favourable trade deals outside of the EU. The EU is a far larger market than the UK and carries greater negotiating weight.

    The exit position on trading with EU member countries is particularly weak. At best we might be able to negotiate the same arrangements as are currently in place. At best! And perhaps significantly worse – after all a UK exit would not only run the risk of damaging the UK but the EU also. This problem only exists with an exit decision and so if this were the only factor it can only be in the UK’s interest to remain in.

    There is something false in the notion that exit equates to more independence. For example negotiating access to the single market on similar terms would inevitably require compliance with the same same rules and regulations, and a similar financial contribution (as is the case for Norway). As an EU country the UK has a strong say on what hose rules are; outside it we have none. It seems we can exert more influence and independence from inside the EU. Outside we have no influence and are subject to the rules imposed on us by other countries – we are not at the table and have no say. I would argue greater influence in and equate this to greater self-determination not less. In today’s connected world, where it is so important to work with and collaborate with others, It is difficult to view this differently. In short, we are a stronger independent country in the EU than out.

    Whatever the exact cost of membership (but it is clear that £55m per day is a wild overstatement and the real number is closer to the £17m figure) it would seem highly unlikely that we would refuse to pay it were it necessary in order to retain access to the single European market. Enough said!