One of the most confusing chants of the Brexiteers is the “The EU needs us, more than we need them” slogan.
On the face of it, it seems odd.
To suggest that 27 other countries, all working together under a common framework, are more in “need” of 1 country, doesn’t sound right.
The basic facts are:
- The UK’s trade with the EU amounts to 46% of the UK’s foreign trade.
- The EU-27’s trade with the UK amounts to between 8–17% of the EU-27’s foreign trade, depending how it’s measured.
Measured as a percentage of the total economy:
- The UK’s trade with the EU amounts to 13% of the UK’s economy.
- The EU-27’s trade with the UK amounts to about 4% of the EU-27’s economy.
Source – Fullfact
Imagine a hypothetical brexit themed wall, that prevented all goods and services flowing across the channel in either direction, were built between the UK and the continent. That is to say, the UK “lost” the EU and the EU “lost” the UK.
What would happen?
The EU would instantly lose 8% of their exports (or 17%).
The UK would lose 46% of their exports.
There are no words available in the English language to describe the carnage and mayhem that would follow in the UK if near 50% of all foreign trade was lost. The European Union certainly wouldn’t want to lose 10%ish, but each country has 26 other free trade partners to make it up with. As well as the trade agreements struck around the world, of which the UK has zero.
So why do Brexiteers insist that the UK is more important than it is?
A kind of national narcissism? World War 2 fantasies? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s certainly not based in any kind of rational appraisal of the facts.
If UK citizens are unable to buy BMWs, French wine, or holiday in Spain, who really “loses”? The brexiteers want to suggest that it’s “them”. It’s actually “us”.
So who has the advantage?
The very fact that our government only seems to be able to talk about “negotiating” and “getting a deal” is somewhat ridiculous in itself. The rest of Europe’s voters are indifferent to a “deal”. Their politicians aren’t talking about how they’ll “get the best deal” or huffing about the UK’s Brexit bill. The implication is, “you wanted this, if you don’t like it, walk away. We don’t need you.”
Compare that to Theresa May’s assessment of how much the UK needs the rest of the EU, her near apocalyptic, panicked sounding take on what would happen if the “deal” goes wrong:
“Our place in the world, our economic security, the vital public services upon which we all rely, our future prosperity – everything depends on, and will be defined by, the outcome of these next five years.
If we don’t make a success of the next five years, our economic prosperity will suffer, jobs and livelihoods will be put at risk, and with them the security and peace of mind of working families.
If we don’t make a success of Brexit, we won’t have the financial means to fund the public services upon which we all rely.”
– Theresa May, a week or so ago.
Does that sound like someone with all the cards?
The EU-27 have all the Aces, Kings, Queens and Jokers.
The UK has a soggy biscuit and a half chewed napkin.