On Thursday, Nick Clegg told an influential audience in the City of London that historically the Liberal Democrats are a party of industrialists and small business. He set out how the Lib Dems are staunch advocates of free trade between open economies, and the Lib Dems are long believers in the power of enterprise to help individuals fulfill their own potential, while serving society at large.
One day later on Lib Dem Voice, MEP Phil Bennion set out the achievement of the EU Single Market, stemming from 1985, when Commissioner Arthur Cockfield published a list of 300 recommendations needed to eliminate the barriers to real free trade within Europe, to make the (then) European Community more competitive and profitable for Member States.
He continued to say that since 1992 the focus has been to “complete” this single market. The benefits are clear; allowing businesses, particularly small ones, to move easily across borders expands their ability to trade and do business, to employ more staff, and source their supplies more efficiently.
The ability for ordinary citizens to move anywhere in Europe without visas helps business and tourism. Opportunities for internet business and for the self-employed to take advantage of these freedoms are enormous, particularly in the UK where most households have access to the internet.
Phil Bennion explained the roughly £90 billion the UK makes from the single market, and the 3.5 million (1 in 10) UK jobs that rely on it. He promotes the unique position that the UK enjoys attracting Foreign Direct Investment, due to our stable labour market, but crucially our access to the European Single Market. Any withdrawal, even a downgrade to EFTA membership (Like Norway or Switzerland) would damage this privileged position.
The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills recently published a report highlighting how the UK fails fully to exploit the single market and could profit even more from EU membership if we put in place the right policies to work with our neighbours constructively.
Exporting UK manufacturers take the Single Market for granted. This has been a reasonable assumption for the last 20 years, but if single market decisions are increasingly taken by Eurozone countries acting together, the UK could easily find itself slowly marginalised.