THE BLOG

Being in Europe Gives Us Clout and Influence to Get the Best Economic Deal for Britain

02/12/2015 18:46 GMT | Updated 02/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Being in Europe makes Britain stronger in international trade talks. By being part of the world's largest market, standing with 500 million people, Britain is a more important trade partner for countries around the world than we would be on our own. This has been demonstrated vividly today with the signing of a new free trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam.

Vietnam is a great example of a fast-developing country, which becomes a more important market with every year that goes by. Its 90 million consumers, and economic growth of over six per cent a year, spell real opportunities for Britain's exporting businesses. The deal signed today will ease their passage into this exciting market, triggering a wave of investment, innovation and growth, as well as greater opportunities for British companies exporting goods like cars, whisky, and machinery to Vietnam. It also provides greater protection for British businesses investing in Vietnam, through the EU's new Investment Court System.

Why does this matter for people here in Britain? It matters because selling abroad creates jobs here at home, not just in businesses that export directly, but also in firms supplying parts or services to those businesses. Europe's ability to unlock new markets far afield boosts Britain's economy helping families up and down the country.

Vietnam, despite growing fast, is neither a huge economy nor a major destination for British exports - though that should change once the free trade agreement is implemented. But what this deal also does is build a bridgehead for British trade in South East Asia, a key and fast-growing market. Vietnam is a member of ASEAN, a trading block including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, which together comprises the seventh-largest economy on earth. Getting a foot in the door via Vietnam will make concluding a full EU-ASEAN agreement easier. Indeed, there is already work underway to secure similar deals with more ASEAN member states including Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, as well as other countries in the region, such as India, Japan, and Australia.

Those who want Britain to leave Europe argue that doing so would make it easier to trade with the rest of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth, as today's announcement proves. Quitting Europe would be a leap into the dark. Not only would our exports to Europe - which buys almost half of all we sell - face new red tape and new taxes, but we would cease to be party to the EU's free trade agreements with more than 50 countries. And we would have to start our own negotiations with countries like the US, so moving to the back of the queue.

The fact is this. We do not need to choose between Europe and Asia, Europe and America, or Europe and the Commonwealth - we can have the best of both worlds, as President Obama and the leaders of India and China have said recently. Our trade is stronger in Europe, and that makes workers and families the length of Britain better off.