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Darling: £250 billion of UK trade at risk if we leave the EU

For the first time Britain Stronger In Europe is showing the total value of UK trade that can be attributed to our EU membership, and which is at risk if we leave.

  • The UK benefits from EU Free Trade Agreements (EU FTAs) with over 50 countries. The UK’s trade to EU FTA nations, taken together with our trade with the EU and EEA, accounts for 60% of the UK’s total trade - or £637bn.
  • New analysis from Stronger In now shows that this trade is £250bn a year higher than it would have been if the UK was not a member of the EU.
  • This £250bn a year is therefore at risk if the UK leaves its preferential trading relationship within the EU’s Single Market, which gives full, unrestricted access to EU markets, EEA countries and EU FTAs.
  • Stronger In analysis also shows that EU FTAs have been negotiated over a period of 41 years, from 1974 to 2015. The average time it takes the EU to negotiate an FTA is six years. This underlines the amount of time it would take to renegotiate all EU FTAs from scratch.

£250 billion is the potential UK trade that could be lost if we move to the World Trade Organisation trading rules without an alternative agreement, as many Leave campaigners have advocated. Every other alternative trading relationship increases barriers to UK-EU trade and excludes the UK from EU FTAs, so the only question therefore is the scale of the loss of trade outside the EU Single Market.

Commenting, Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

"Those wanting to leave the EU want to pull Britain out of the Single Market, which would mean introducing tariffs and barriers to our trade and putting billions of vital trade at risk.

"The choice is between free trade within the EU's Single Market of 500 million consumers, or spending years negotiating new trade deals only to leave us in a weaker position than we enjoy today.

"Leaving the Single Market would be catastrophic for our businesses and our families who would be paying more and suffering from a weaker economy.

"There is no trading arrangement outside the EU which gives us the free trade we rely on today. Leaving would put jobs, low prices and financial security at risk."