Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Myth-busting on trade

Reporting to Parliament yesterday on the outcome of last week's European Council meeting in Brussels, Gordon Brown repeated the hackneyed myth that "nearly 60 per cent. of our trade is with Europe and that 3 million jobs depend on our membership of the European Union."

So today the Democracy Movement has fired off a letter to the Prime Minister to request the evidence for this statement. The letter reads:

Dear Prime Minister,

In your statement to Parliament yesterday on the outcome of last week’s meeting of the European Council, you said:

"nearly 60 per cent. of our trade is with Europe and that 3 million jobs depend on our membership of the European Union."
(Hansard, 23 Jun 2008 : Column 30)

I am writing to ask if you would please provide me with the evidence for this assertion.

Specifically, confirmation that your 60 per cent figure for trade includes all trade and not just certain limited sections of exports, and that it also in the case of goods exports takes into account the distortion in figures created by the re-shipping ports at Rotterdam and Antwerp.

And specifically, the source of your figure that 3 million jobs are dependent "on our membership of the European Union" - as distinct from jobs related to trade. Clearly it would be nonsensical to claim that the continuation of trade and the safety of related jobs is dependent on our membership of the EU, given many non-EU countries trade successfully with EU members and indeed have beneficial trade agreements with the EU as a whole.

Has the Prime Minister misled Parliament? We'll keep you posted!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From a Dan Hannan Tony article on The Bruges Group....these 3 million jobs are now folk lore, from 1975!!
"Blair likes to cite the figure of three million British jobs at stake. Funnily enough, this was precisely the figure quoted by Edward Heath during the 1975 referendum campaign. As it turned out, almost exactly three million jobs were lost during the 1970s immediately following our accession, although others were found elsewhere. But none of this is here or there. For the conflation of EU membership with access to European markets is a false one. Plenty of countries, not just the EFTA members, enjoy free trade with the EU from outside: Greenland, the Channel Islands, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and others. The easy way to answer the Prime Minister is to point to the fact that every member of EFTA exports more per head to the EU than does Britain. Let me repeat that: EVERY MEMBER OF EFTA EXPORTS MORE PER HEAD TO THE EU THAN DOES BRITAIN. Indeed, both Norway and Switzerland sell more than twice as much per capita to the EU from outside as Britain does from inside. Of course their businesses must meet EU standards when selling to the EU — as exporters the world over must do. But they are spared the cost of applying these standards to their own territory. In fact, almost the only job that would definitively disappear if Britain left the EU is — ulp! — mine."

Dan Hannan