Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 13 June 2013


Many people say to me: just give us the truth – should we remain in the EU or not? Could we survive on our own? What are the advantages of leaving?

Unfortunately in this debate, as in so many others, there is no truth. Nobody knows for sure. There are only arguments. I thought it might be helpful to set out the argument for and against membership over the next two weeks. Today the arguments for staying in the EU.

The EU is the world's largest trading bloc. EU membership gives the UK unparalleled access to European markets. In 2011, 47% of the UK's exports went to other EU countries. Trade with the EU is responsible for creating around 3.5 million UK jobs either directly or indirectly.

Membership of the EU has opened the UK up to non-European markets too. The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in 2011, was worth an estimated £500 million to UK businesses, and the EU-US trade deal, which is being negotiated, could be worth £10 billion per year. Outside the EU, it is unlikely the UK could make such favourable deals.

Those who wish us to leave the EU suggest that we would save vast sums of money.  But would we?

Like Switzerland, we would have to negotiate an unknown number of UK-EU bilateral agreements. Switzerland currently has around 100 agreements, and pays £53 per head to European programmes each year. Like Norway, we would pay to be part of the single market, but would have no say in how the rules were set. In 2011, Norway contributed approximately £110 per person to European programmes. On that basis, the UK would currently pay around £6 billion to be part of the free trade club, slightly less than our current annual net contribution of £7 billion.

The centuries before the first European settlement saw continuous conflict on the continent, but the EU has provided a framework for peaceful interaction in Europe. It has helped Western Europe attain 50 years of unparalleled concord and prosperity. 

Today, the UK is the sixth largest economy in the world, and its position in an expanding EU helps to gives us weight amongst global players. Over the coming decades, the rising economies of countries like Brazil and India will overtake us and the UK will need to reposition. Outside of the EU, we risk losing our seat at the top table.

Next week – reasons for leaving!

posted by Gary @ 09:37