Time and again on various news programmes we heard pro-EU advocates proclaim than anywhere between 40-50% of the UK’s trade is with the EU and therefore leaving the EU would be devastating to our economy. Setting aside the flaws in the inherent suggestion that leaving the political structures of the EU would automatically mean we would lose our ability to trade with remaining EU member states, very little focus was directed at who holds the relative power in UK-EU trade.
A written answer in the House of Commons yesterday goes some way to explaining why so little attention was given to the question of who would come off worst from a trade dispute between the UK and EU. For it was confirmed that the EU continues to do better out of trade with the UK than the UK does. In fact the Balance of Trade deficit the UK has with the EU has widened:
Mr Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what the size of the UK trade deficit with the EU was in each of the last five years.
Mr Davey: As published by the Office of National Statistics, the balance of trade between the United Kingdom and the European Union over the last years were as follows:
UK’s balance of trade in goods and services with the EU £ million 2006 -29,616 2007 -35,235 2008 -28,582 2009 -27,421 2010 -35,534
While a number of commentators were quick to mention that Honda cars are made in Swindon and Nissan cars are made in Sunderland to take advantage of the UK’s ability to trade within the EU customs union, even with these manufacturing activities we still buy far more from the EU member states than they buy from us. If both car makers moved to the continent it would only increase our balance of trade deficit with the EU and actually make us an even more valuable trading partner.
The figures make clear there is a vested interest in EU member states maintaining strong trade links with the UK, irrespective of whether the UK is self governing or ruled from Brussels. To cite a loss of trade as a rationale for staying firmly inside the EU, and subverting the right of the British people to decide how this country is governed and by whom, is simply dishonest.