Matthew Lynn in the Telegraph takes an interesting look at the Eurostat intra-EU trade numbers:
Eurostat, hardly an anti-EU source, has just published its latest analysis of the degree and depth of trade within the EU.
It ranks all the 28 countries based on the share of their exports that go to other countries in the Union. So where was the UK? Right at the very bottom of the table, with only 44pc of the stuff we sell abroad going to the EU.
The only other country below 50pc was tiny Malta, basically a financial and tourism centre, on 45pc. All the other 26 nations are selling more than half their exports within the EU, some overwhelmingly so. The average across the EU is 62pc. We are running at half to two thirds the levels of other European economies.
It is a similar, if not quite so dramatic story, on imports. We are third from bottom of that league table, with the rest of the EU accounting for 54pc of our imports – a reflection mainly of the huge deficit we run with the rest of Europe. The only countries below us were Greece and the Netherlands, on 53pc and 46pc respectively.
His conclusion: that the EU is not key to the UK's economic position in the long term.
Why is that? The answer is pretty simple. The EU economy has stagnated – GDP is still some 6pc below what it was back in 2008 – while the rest of the world has been growing far more quickly. In that context, the findings are not very surprising. It is far easier to sell stuff to people with plenty of money than to people with not much of the stuff.
Do read the whole thing. Over a glass of French red.There are three important points that come out of that, however. The first is that it explains why the UK will be the first country to vote on leaving the EU. It simply doesn’t matter that much to us.