Happy that 40%+ of UK exports go to the EU?

Or worried that only 50%+ go to the Rest of the World?

Europhiles love to stress the importance of our trade with the EU.  “50% of UK exports go to the EU”, they say.  Wow.  How about that!  Amazing!

But hang on a minute.  In fact of course when you take account of the Rotterdam effect, it’s probably around 42%.  And take a look at the map.  The EU is really only a rather small part of the world.  The rest of the world includes the Americas, and Russia, and India, and China, and Japan, and South East Asia.  And these are not inconsiderable economies.   Many of them are growing rapidly, while the EU economy is in the doldrums for a host of reasons, not least its demographics; its gross over-regulation; its very mature (if not senile) economic status; and most of all, of course, the vast self-inflicted wound of Monetary Union, and the on-going refusal to grasp the nettle and dismantle the €uro.

The EU, in fact, currently accounts for something like 17% of global trade and global GDP, and falling.  So how come our trade is so hugely biased towards this declining economic area?  How come we do relatively little in the other 80%+ of the globe — where the growth is?   China, the BRICS, the Americas.  Even Africa is coming out of decades of stasis and showing signs of growth.  Why aren’t we focusing on those areas?

Have we noticed that Commonwealth GDP is just overtaking Eurozone GDP, and growing fast?  When we joined the EU in 1973, it seemed to be the future.  It was growth, jobs, technology, modernity, excitement.  And the Commonwealth was a curious and unimportant hangover from a colonial past, with no real value.  We cut adrift countries like New Zealand in a callous way.

My, how things have changed!  The EU was the future, once.  Today, there’s been a curious switch.  Today it’s the Commonwealth (and the BRICS) that are about growth and jobs, and it’s the EU that is desperately old hat.  It’s failing before our eyes.  For some time now, I’ve been arguing that we should not merely try to look at the pros and cons of EU membership in isolation (though the negative balance of advantage is clear).  We should also debate the opportunity cost of our inward-looking, self-referential focus on Europe, and our failure to develop our trade with the fast-growing economies outside.

So I was delighted to see the same case, made with enormous cogency, by Allister Heath, Editor of City A.M., and columnist for the Telegraph.  Even his title makes the point: “Let’s embrace the world and avoid being left on the continental shelf”.  And the quote picked out for emphasis, no doubt by some sub-editor, lays the blame squarely on Brussels: “EU policy has conspired to make British companies focus on the world’s worst performing area”.

Heath insists that “A reinvigorated, post-Olympics Britain” needs to reclaim control of its trade policy — and the right to deregulate regardless of Brussels directives.  He admits that some captains of industry — though fewer now than five years ago — are still wedded to the European dream, but he dismisses them in robust terms: “The small minority of corporate dinosaurs who cannot see this should be ignored”.

Of course you’d expect me to like Allister Heath’s piece, because I’ve been ploughing the same furrow for some time.  But it is genuinely a brilliantly written article.  Please read it.  And let’s leave the last word to Allister: “It is not “modern”, merely stupid, to be tied to a sinking continent”.

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One Response to Happy that 40%+ of UK exports go to the EU?

  1. Mike Spilligan says:

    A “sinking continent”? – more like having a rotting albatross tied round our neck. The big problem is that so many politicians, political commentators, commercial and industrial business people and so on, have nailed their colours so high on the EU mast that they cannot wriggle away from their declared narrow vision of the world – or it will take something new and very dramatic to enable them to do that without losing more than just “face”.

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