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European Community (Exports)

Volume 13: debated on Monday 16 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proportion of United Kingdom exports is now made to other members of the European Economic Community.

In 1980, 43 per cent. of the United Kingdom's exports went to other members of the European Community.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a very significant figure and that it proves that, if we were so misled or misguided as to withdraw from the EEC, it would be a devastating blow to our exporters and to the jobs of those who work in exporting industries?

I agree that this figure demonstrates the great advantages in having a free trade arrangement with neighbouring economies. If this were replaced by a system of mutual tariffs, it would be quite destructive.

What proportion of our exports to the rest of the EEC in this period consisted of oil?

We had a positive oil and oil products balance with the EEC in 1980 of £2,700 million.

Will my right hon. Friend reinforce what he has already said to my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), because our membership of the Common Market and the growth of our exports to that market is absolutely central to the maintenance of jobs in the United Kingdom? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government must spell this out ever more clearly to the public?

I think that the development of trade with the EEC must be spelt out realistically and forcefully.

Is it not a fact that the comparable figure before entry into the Common Market was only about 12 to 13 per cent. less than that? As this increase in trade has come over the last 10 years, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that readjustments, not necessarily in other directions, could also take place over a similar period?

That might be so. I think that any dispassionate and, therefore, helpful analysis of this trade would conclude that both our exports and imports percentages have risen substantially, thus demonstrating the strong attractions that this country has for the Continental members of the European Community, and vice versa.