Last week Theresa May made a tremendous speech explaining her 12-point plan to leave the European Union. By leaving the EU we would also leave the internal market of the EU commonly known as the single market. The Prime Minister provided certainty about the process of leaving, reaffirming our free trade ambitions with the EU and the rest of the world.
The European Union's internal market is important to us and Britain wants access to it by continuing to buy and sell goods and services to our friends and allies on the continent. However the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, told me in the House of Commons that 20 countries have grown their trade with the market from outside faster than we have from within. This is an incredibly important point as independent countries can and do trade successfully with Europe, without having to be a member of their internal market.
In 1999 61 per cent of our total UK trade was with the EU, it is now 43 per cent and it is set to fall to 35 per cent by 2025. These figures are also exaggerated by the Rotterdam effect whereby goods shipped to continental ports count as EU trade but are actually shipped to markets in the rest of the world.
We now have a crucial task persuading the member states, particularly in a year with key elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany, that they have a massive mutual, selfish and strategic interest in continuing reciprocal free trade with us. Already senior figures in Bavaria have pointed out they do not want a recession created by cack-handed negotiations by Brussels where some senior EU figures have been negative.
I was in Berlin over the weekend with Leave means Leave Co-Chair John Longworth to discuss this exact point at Tönissteiner Kreis, an institution representing many from the German political, business and academic establishment. I pointed out that we have a huge deficit with Germany who sold us 810,000 cars last year; a fifth of all cars produced in Germany. The companies involved employ a million people.
The audience was overwhelmingly against the principle of the UK leaving the EU as many stated they valued our free trade beliefs. I also explained how our EU membership is holding us back, particularly in innovation. I reported a recent visit to BASF in Ludwigshafen, the largest chemical company in the world which has ceased development of biotechnology for the European market, because of the EU’s excessive risk aversion. We had a very genuine and interesting discussion. I stayed on afterwards and several attending asked if I would be interested in coming back to talk to more audiences in different parts of Germany.