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Britain’s Trade in the EEC

November 3rd, 1982

A letter to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph which was published on 3rd November 1982.

The Rt Hon Geoffrey Rippon (Oct. 29th) and Mr Christopher Tugendhat, in their efforts to prove the impossible, namely that the European Economic Community brings economic benefit to this country, continually confuse the issue of EEC membership with the issue of free trade in Western Europe.

They know very well that the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries negotiated tariff-free industrial trade with the EEC as long ago as 1973.  British trade with Switzerland, for instance, is as free as it is with West Germany or France.

In fact, British exports to Switzerland rose 6.4 times in the seven years to 1980 compared with six times for the EEC excluding Britain, and unlike the EEC this is a trade which is fundamentally in balance.

As for American and Japanese investment location preferences, these are far more to do with pre-existing geography and English language and local workforce skills than with EEC quangos.

It is laughable to suppose that were Britain to leave the EEC, the EEC would in some sense shut Britain’s exports out.  Preferential access to Britain’s oil and her home market are far too valuable for the Nine to imperil them by some sort of spiteful trade war.

What would be imperilled by Britain’s withdrawal would be the jobs of dispossessed British politicians, but I think Britain could survive that.