When the question of the UK’s continuing relationship with the EU once again hit the headlines, with Philip Gordon, a senior official in the US State Department, saying it was in America’s interests to see a “strong British voice within the EU”, we sought out our members’ views.
As IOE members export and trade internationally they have their finger on the pulse of the world beyond the UK. Certainly they have amassed more experience of the rules and regulations (both good and bad) that EU membership imposes on us. We wanted to hear their views on whether a withdrawal from the EU would affect our ability to export.
55.8% said the UK should remain in the EU and 18.6% saying we should get out. A further 25.6% opted for taking a fresh view of membership – shaking it all about.
It’s fair to say that our members have strong views on the EU – whether that’s for staying in or opting out. Some members see it as “commercial suicide” to leave while others complained of the stranglehold of EU legislation. There were several who believe it’s best to remain members and bring about change from the inside.
One member who voted to stay in said: “It is just embarrassing nowadays how often I have to apologise for the UK’s seeming Eurosceptic point of view whilst doing business in Europe and the rest of the world.”
Another who backed the ‘third way’ – staying in and trying to negotiate change – commented: “As the EU expands I feel that unless we can change matters now our scope of influence will be become very limited as we are likely to be out voted and that the rest of the EU will move on without us.”
Comments from those members who want to leave the EU included: “The EU needs the UK more than the other way round, as the UK is sucking up more imports from the EU than it exports to the EU.”
The EU is still by far our largest trading partner as the export figures for Jan-Oct 2012 from the HMRC bear out:
EUROPEAN UNION – 50.6%
ASIA & OCEANIA – 14.9%
W EUROPE – 4.6%
NORTH AMERICA – 15.6%
M EAST & N AFRICA – 5.4%
EASTERN EUROPE – 2.8%
SUB SAHARAN AFRICA – 3.2%
OTHER AMERICA – 2.1%
So could we go it alone and be better off in the process? Or would it be, as the Europhiles assert, a recipe for economic suicide, with a loss of influence and the creation of a whole host of potential barriers to trade?
Norway and Switzerland both benefit from the single market in Europe without being part of the EU and seem to have thriving economies but have limited ability to influence EU policy. Norway’s foreign minister, Espen Eide recently warned the UK about following the Norwegian model saying that Oslo had “limited scope for influence”. And added: “We are not at the table when decisions are made.”
Or is there a third way – a re-negotiation of our relationship with the EU short of actually leaving the club, and would the rest of the EU allow us to do this?
For more information on how the IOE can help you trade in Europe call our team on the team at Export House on 01733 404400.