CBI President speaks on business vision for reformed EU
The CBI's President, Paul Drechsler CBE, spoke in Dublin at the Institute of International and EconomicAffairs on the British business vision of a reformed EU.
On the value of EU trade deals, Paul Drechsler CBE, CBI President, said:
“Europe is our passport to a world of opportunity to trade in every corner of the globe. The weight of more than 500 million citizens gives us a stronger hand when negotiating easy access to the rest of the world for British companies. Helping us be part of greater numbers of better quality deals.
“Canada and Australia have preferential trade access to 15 non-EU countries. Switzerland has preferential trade access to 38 non-EU countries – 36 of which were negotiated through the EFTA trading bloc. Yet – through EU trade deals – the UK and Ireland have preferential access to more than 50 countries outside the EU.
“And the EU gets better deals too. In the year after the EU trade deal with South Korea - UK exports to the country rose by more than half - hitting their highest level ever, more than six billion pounds.
“This year – five years after the EU’s South Korea deal entered into force – almost 99% of tariffs will have been removed. Yet Australia will have to wait almost 20 years after their deal entered into force to reach this goal. Almost four times as long as the EU.
“EU trade deals are powerful. But we simply don’t have enough of them. Today, EU membership covers about 60% of the UK’s global trade.
“‘Sealing the deal’ on all current negotiations would mean the EU and its trade deals would cover 88% of the UK’s global trade - from Tampa in the West to Tokyo in the East.
“And last year’s opening of trade talks with Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand is encouraging. It just goes to show that it’s not an either/or choice between the continent or the Commonwealth.”
On the possible impact of a Brexit on trade and the Republic of Ireland, Mr. Drechsler said:
“The alternatives to full membership would also have a clear effect not just on the UK but also the Republic of Ireland.
“When the UK sneezes, Ireland catches a cold. And it’s not hard to see why. Trade between the UK and Ireland stands at 1 billion euros a week – accounting for 30% of imports into Ireland. Ireland is the UK’s largest market for food and drink and our second largest market for clothing, fashion and footwear.
“At the CBI’s Annual Conference last November, Enda Kenny said it was the Irish government’s strong view that a Brexit was not in Ireland’s economic interest.
“He referred to research by the Economic and Social Research Institute which highlighted that estimates from the literature suggest that a Brexit could reduce bilateral trade flows between Ireland and the UK by 20% or more.
“I’ve spoken to CBI members, particularly in the food and drink industry, who experience delays exporting to and importing from Norway and Switzerland because their access to the Single Market is not complete.
“The UK would not be represented on the European Council or in the European Parliament. And Britain and Ireland would no longer be able to work together to influence European legislation – as we do at the moment.
“The alternatives to full membership would also mean a “period of dislocation” from current free trade agreements with over 50 countries – a third of the world’s markets by value. On the outside, the UK would have to go ‘back to the drawing board’ and negotiate any deals from scratch - a real obstruction for British exporters. UK firms trading with countries who have trade deals with the EU – like South Korea or South Africa – would face real uncertainty.”