Government reveals £78.9 billion deficit in trade with the EU in 2014

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)  

News Release

19th November 2015

In response to a written question from the independent Labour peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, the Government has revealed the 2014 figures for UK trade with the EU and which expose a £78.9 billion deficit with the EU.

Responding for the Government , Lord Maude of Horsham, from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said:  ‘The UK’s trade in goods deficit with the EU was £78.9bn in 2014. The overall trade in goods and services deficit with the EU was £61.7bn.’

Lord Stoddart, commenting on the Government’s response, said:  “We are constantly told that EU membership is vital for our trading interests.  The Government’s answer exposes it as a deceit.  The EU countries sell far more to us than we do to them, so we can see who really benefits from EU membership.  Even more seriously, the deficit has to be financed and it is quite clear that much of it comes foreign companies buying up British businesses.  This is not a bottomless form of funding and cannot be relied on indefinitely.  Our trade deficit with the EU has been going on for decades and is something the public needs to understand, when considering how to vote in the forthcoming referendum on EU membership. We need a simple free trade agreement with the EU, not the whole panoply of membership and the huge financial and regulatory costs that come with it.”

Ends

The full text of Lord Stoddart’s question and the Government’s reply is as follows:

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Sent: 17 November 2015 17:53

To: STODDART, D Lord
Subject: Written answer to your QWA HL3451 received from Lord Maude of Horsham, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Lord Maude of Horsham, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL3451):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the deficit in trade with the EU in 2014 in (1) goods, and (2) overall in goods and services; and how that deficit is financed. (HL3451)

Tabled on: 09 November 2015

Answer:
Lord Maude of Horsham:

The UK’s trade in goods deficit with the EU was £78.9bn in 2014. The overall trade in goods and services deficit with the EU was £61.7bn.

The UK’s total trade deficit is financed by a net inflow of investment in the financial account, for which data is not available on a geographical basis. The UK’s financial account surplus was £89.4bn in 2014.

Source: ONS Pink Book 2015

The Citizens’ Initiative – or damp squib?

The appealing “European citizens’ initiative” was an innovation brought in by the Lisbon Treaty. EU citizens could demand action on a particular subject provided they collect a million signatures. It has proved remarkably ineffective. After three years there have been many initiatives, but not a single one has yet led to a new legislative proposal.  György Schöpflin, a Hungarian member of the EPP group, stated in his report that there have been 51 initiatives launched yet not a single one has attained its goal.

Particular frustration has been expressed over the “Stop TTIP” initiative, which collected well over a million signatures, but the Commission obstructed it by claiming that it doesn’t comply with the criteria. Mr Schöpflin said, however, that legally, the Commission is in the right. Firstly, under the existing procedure anything that is a current process cannot become a subject of a citizens’ initiative. Secondly, and that is more complicated, a European citizens’ initiative procedure cannot stop, reverse or negate legislation.

To his credit, Mr Schöpflin said “I think that should be changed. It should be possible for an initiative to ask for an existing directive to be overturned.” It is hard to see this ever happening. Essentially, EU “citizens” have no input into anything which the EU is actively pursuing. They can only whinge about it after it has become a fait accompli.

So while a strong case exists for enlarging the powers of the Citizens’ Initiative, the idea of the Commission agreeing to ordinary people overturning or changing in any way their grandiose schemes is impossible. The reality is that any improvements in the scheme look remote.

If South Korea can do it, why can’t we?

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)  

News Release

3rd November 2015

Peer hammers Government for pro-EU bias and stay-in campaigners for belittling our country’s ability to stand on its own

During a debate on the European Union Referendum Bill in the House of Lords (02.11.15), the independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has pointed out the bias being exhibited by the Government in the debate about Britain’s future in the EU and strongly criticised fellow peers who regularly talk down Britain’s ability to cope as an independent sovereign nation.

Lord Stoddart said that it is impossible to obtain unbiased information from “…the Government because they are in fact biased. I say that because the Prime Minister has just been to Iceland where he made his position perfectly clear, which is that he wishes to remain in the EU. He believes that it is the best thing for Britain to do, so he has made his position absolutely clear. How can the Government be unbiased?

In a hard hitting speech, Lord Stoddart bluntly stated that “the British national interest cannot be served in the European Union. That is because the European Union is exactly what it says it is and what it wants to become. It has been made perfectly clear by unelected officials and indeed by elected people that they want further integration. However the Prime Minister tries, he will never be able to join a full Union unless he is prepared to agree to more integration.”

Lord Stoddart also expressed serious concerns about the habit those who support staying in the EU have of belittling our country and its ability to thrive as an independent nation. “The other thing that has worried me about this debate is the lack of confidence that so many people have in this country’s ability to negotiate with other countries and to stand on its own and build up its own businesses and exports. Why is it that other countries in the world can do it? Why can South Korea do it with a population of 25 million? Why cannot Britain, with a population of 65 million, negotiate successfully with other countries when smaller countries including Saudi Arabia and Iceland can? The Prime Minister of Iceland made it perfectly clear that it was doing very well outside the EU with a population of 350,000 and did not want to go into the EU any longer. Why have we lost confidence in ourselves?”

The full text of some of Lord Stoddart’s remarks during the debate are as follows. Click on this link for the full debate.

Referendum Bill – second reading

House of Lords – 2nd November 2015

Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab): My Lords, I have been listening to this debate all afternoon and I find it very interesting indeed. I also realise that all the amendments are well meant, but I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, has hit the nail on the head. What she wants is unbiased information, and she believes that you cannot get it from the Government because they are in fact biased. I say that because the Prime Minister has just been to Iceland where he made his position perfectly clear, which is that he wishes to remain in the EU. He believes that it is the best thing for Britain to do, so he has made his position absolutely clear. How can the Government be unbiased? The noble Baroness said that we have civil servants and they will be unbiased. Civil servants are never unbiased; they take their lead from the boss, as in fact they should. Knowing that the Prime Minister has gone abroad and said that he believes that the United Kingdom should remain in the EU come what may will condition whatever is put into these reports. We should make no mistake about that.

2 Nov 2015 : Column 1450

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Would the noble Lord allow for the possibility that the Prime Minister might have reached the position he now holds because of his concept of the British national interest and his position as Prime Minister in trying to define that national interest?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: Yes, I believe that the Prime Minister believes that, but the British national interest cannot be served in the European Union. That is because the European Union is exactly what it says it is and what it wants to become. It has been made perfectly clear by unelected officials and indeed by elected people that they want further integration. However the Prime Minister tries, he will never be able to join a full Union unless he is prepared to agree to more integration, and that of course will also mean joining the euro. Further integration must include the euro and anyone who wishes to be part of further integration will have to join it or else leave or become some sort of associate member. Those are the facts and we should not try to deny them.

6 pm

The other thing that has worried me about this debate is the lack of confidence that so many people have in this country’s ability to negotiate with other countries and to stand on its own and build up its own businesses and exports. Why is it that other countries in the world can do it? Why can South Korea do it with a population of 25 million? Why cannot Britain, with a population of 65 million, negotiate successfully with other countries when smaller countries including Saudi Arabia and Iceland can? The Prime Minister of Iceland made it perfectly clear that it was doing very well outside the EU with a population of 350,000 and did not want to go into the EU any longer. Why have we lost confidence in ourselves? Why is it that so many people say we have to be members of this great organisation to succeed?

The CBI’s foolish games

Towards the end of the 1990s, during drinks after at a debate at Bath on joining the euro, Mr Idris Francis, a long-standing supporter of withdrawal from the EU, asked Kate Barker, the CBI’s chief economist at the time, why she had not produced any calculations on the effects of joining the euro. She replied, in front of several others, that, “There are so many effects subject to such wide margins of error that it is impossible to know what the consequences of joining would be.” But he then asked her “But do you and the CBI want to join anyway?” to which she replied “Yes.”

Mr Francis quoted this exchange at several later meetings. At one Labour-organised meeting in Bournemouth, he was threatened with eviction by a senior figure in the Britain in Europe campaign. He also received a letter from Kate Barker, objecting to him quoting her words, but at the same time she confirmed what she had said.

Kate Barker must now be regretting her foolish support for the Euro. The CBI was thankfully dissuaded from supporting it as far back as 1999, thanks to the Business for Sterling campaign group. However, it has certainly not changed its policy of supporting our membership of the EU, come what may.

The Vote.Leave campaign recently gained access to the leaked minutes of the CBI’s president’s committee in July 2015, where former Chairman Sir Michael Rake told the meeting, “It is important not to overplay our hand in the negotiations with Brussels, like Greece, and that [the] CBI should be strong in making the case for competitiveness within Europe”. The meeting was attended by Lord Maude, Minister for Trade and Investment, as well as other government officials.

It should be noted that this is the same Sir Mike Rake, who was the deputy chairman of Barclays Bank, which was fined £284.4 million by the Financial Conduct Authority over “brazen” currency rigging.

It seems from his comments that no lessons have been learnt by the CBI in the years following its misjudgement on the Single Currency. Indeed, it is frightening to think that the CBI will almost certainly end up supporting another leap in the dark as untried and as doomed to failure as the Euro – namely UK associate membership of an EU. This will place the UK permanently in the EU’s powerless second division while the First Division  – the Eurozone members  – call all the shots.

It is so obviously a bad solution ot the UK’s “problems” with the EU, but it is almost certainly what  David Cameron will be offering us in the forthcoming referendum, aided and abetted, no doubt, by the CIB. It is sad indeed that an organisation claiming to be “the voice of business” dopes nothing more than play silly games.

Much ado about TTIP, but will it ever be signed?

Opposition to the planned EU-US trade deal known as TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – is coming from a number of different quarters. Our Chairman, Edward Spalton, was one of many people to receive an e-mail from the on-line campaigning organisation “38 Degrees” soliciting financial support for its anti-TTIP campaign. The left-of–centre Campaign Against Euro-Federalism is also a staunch opponent In a recent newsletter, it claimed that TTIP would be “a means for the transnational corporations to rule with secret courts and to override national governments and parliaments.” In other words, TTIP is far from being just a simple free trade agreement. “TTIP will force all Europeans to take Greece’s medicine” claimed a headline on the Politicos website, while concerns have been expressed that TTIP would result in the privatisation of the National Health Service. One UKIP MEP claims to have received over 10,000 e-mails from ordinary members of the public concerned about the implications of the deal. Even if some of the wilder claims have no basis in fact, the strong support for TTIP from the big multinationals suggests that they will be the biggest beneficiaries from the proposals to harmonise regulation across the Atlantic and that small businesses and ordinary people will see little benefit.

A sense of perspective is required here. Will TTIP ever happen? Comprehensive free trade agreements between two different countries are being increasingly superseded by wider agreements on standards under the auspices of various international bodies, such as UNECE, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and ISO, the International Organisation for Standardisation (and interestingly, an independent, non-governmental organisation). Agreements negotiated under these bodies tend to cover only a limited range of items, but they take a lot less time than a full Free Trade agreement. It is therefore misleading for some eurosceptics to emphasise that Iceland and Switzerland have Free Trade agreements with China whereas the EU does not, for the EU has signed a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with China, which facilitate trade. Individual MoUs, like agreements negotiated by UNECE or ISO, are limited in scope, but if enough are signed, they are a good substitute for a full-blown Free Trade agreement and are far easier to agree.

So TTIP is not the only way whereby trade between the EU and the USA might be liberalised. Indeed, its very complexity means that hopes of signing the deal by the end of the year look unlikely to happen. In fact, a number of informed observers including Dr Richard North and the Bruges Group’s Robert Oulds are dubious that it will ever be completed. President Barack Obama is keen to see an agreement signed, as are number of senior figures in the EU, but given how long it has taken to negotiate other free trade deals, can such a complex deal, covering so many areas of standardisation and their monitoring, be finalised in just a few months? Can it overcome the opposition from trade unions, genuine free marketeers and some important political figures in the USA?

One thing is clear. David Cameron chose to cite TTIP as an example of the benefits the UK enjoys by being a member of the European Union. He claimed that the UK would be the biggest European beneficiary of a free trade deal with the USA. The reality is that if we left the EU, we would still be able to trade with the US. We might be able to “piggy back” onto TTIP, although we may decide we would not wish to do so. We may find our own request for free trade negotiations pushed to one side in Washington if TTIP is in the final stages of negotiation when we withdraw, but it could well be possible for us to enjoy a better trading relationship less geared up to the interests of the big multinationals and less prone to interference by lobbyists if we left. One thing is certain:- if Cameron tries to use TTIP as a reason for voting to stay within the EU when the referendum takes place, he may well find this tactic will misfire badly.

Photo by The British Library

Britain’s global leadership – the positive future for a UK outside the EU

The Bruges Group firmly believes that we need to reframe the debate to focus on the positives that Britain poses, in particular our excellent global links, higher education, to the City of London and technical brilliance in manufacturing. The UK, when freed from the restraints of the EU, has numerous attributes. Quite simply we do not have to be governed by Brussels to secure our prosperity, in fact far from it. This research, by Ewen Stewart, makes the positive case for independence.

• Inside the EU we are punching below our weight and should do better. Self-belief coupled with a hard analysis of the nexus of power and strategic advantage will lead to this being addressed but that can only be so once we are outside of the EU.

• The Eurocentric orientation of the UK is misplaced. Emerging markets, by 2018 are expected to account for 45% of world GDP and the European Union’s share will have declined from 34.1% to 20.2%, with the Eurozone representing an even smaller 14.6%. China’s share is predicted to surpass the entire Eurozone by 2018.

• Nations that can address this extraordinary shift in global growth will capitalise most effectively on these new trade flows. The attractive European trade bloc, of the 1970’s does not look so attractive in this light, given the Eurozone’s inexorable decline of the share of global GDP. The UK is uniquely well placed to exploit these shifting trading patterns given its global links and its service and financial sector bias.

• Britain is uniquely positioned globally in terms of economic, cultural and soft and hard power assets. The UK is home to the world’s global language, the world’s most global city and many of the most notable global universities and research institutes. British legal ideas and the common law approach is admired the world over. It is the basis of our stability. These advantages would continue irrespective of our membership of the EU.

• British manufacturing remains comfortably within the top ten, in terms of output, globally. The UK is now a net exporter of motor cars with four out of every five cars produced in Britain exported. Britain is the world’s second most significant aerospace manufacturer, possesses two out of the top ten global pharmaceutical companies while also having strong positions in marine, defence systems, food, beverage and tobacco manufacture, off-shore engineering and high-end engineering and electronics. British design, be it in fashion or sports cars, continues to be world beating.

• The UK retains a key skills base and has developed a high-end, high-margin capability. Membership of the EU, with its cost pressures has almost certainly done more harm than good to this capability. Industry has little to fear from withdrawal.

• The UK is a world leader in sport, media and culture. Higher education is also a great strength with British universities ranked amongst the best in the world. This coupled with the growing strength of the English language and our traditional excellent global links gives the UK real influence in world affairs. This will not change once we are outside the EU.

• While the US is the pre-eminent power accounting for 39% of all global defence expenditure and an even greater technological lead the UK’s defence expenditure remains in the global top 4. Technologically too Britain’s forces, while numerically modest, are highly advanced. Technology generally trumps numbers. The UK is perhaps one of only 5 or 6 nations that can still project power across the globe.

• As the world’s 5th largest economy Britain will not be isolated by leaving the EU. On the contrary British power would, in some cases, be enhanced. For example we would swap our 12% EU voting weight at the World Trade Organisation for a 100% British vote.

• The UK is currently estimated to be a member of 96 different international governmental organisations so the loss of one such organisation, albeit a very important one, is unlikely to be damaging. To read the paper on-line, click on the link below:-

BritainsGlobalLeadership