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Alistair Darling warns of Brexit’s potential trade impact

05 May 2016

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling has said in a recent statement that if Britain were to leave the European Union, this could result in a £250bn negative impact on trade. Darling has argued that the process of agreeing on new free-trade deals with vital export markets could take as long as six years.

According to data produced by Britain Stronger in Europe, which is the official campaign to keep the UK in the EU, Britain exports £637bn worth of goods and services to other EU member states - and more than 50 countries with which the EU has free trade agreements (FTAs). Brexit campaigners have argued that the UK could switch to World Trade Organisation rules whilst it negotiates new trade deals. However, the Remain campaign has said that doing so could cause more than a third of that trade to be jeopardised, as tariffs on British exports would increase.

Darling stated that taking the step to leave the EU would result in the introduction of higher tariffs and barriers to trade, which would put billions of valuable and established trade at risk. He argued that: "There is no trading arrangement outside the EU that gives us the free trade we rely on today. Leaving would put jobs, low prices and financial security at risk." This intervention by the former chancellor is the latest in a succession of similar statements by economists and politicians, which has been put in place by the Remain campaign to persuade voters to vote to stay in the EU.

The campaign reported that a number of the FTAs in place date back to 1974, and the average time taken to reach a deal was six years, thus highlighting the potential challenge Britain would face if it wished to pursue new deals after leaving the EU. However, the Remain campaign has been accused of downplaying the UK’s capacity to forge forward in the world without the backing of the EU, according to the Vote Leave campaign’s chief executive Matthew Elliott. Elliott stated: "Britain Stronger in Europe can’t even be consistent or honest in their campaign to do down the British economy. Their underlying belief appears to be that Britain - the world’s fifth largest economy and a nation with a great history of trading across the globe - would be an economic backwater if it wasn’t for Brussels taking control of our trade deals. That’s absurd."

Former EU commissioner Peter Mandelson has accused Leave campaigners of also using the topic of immigration to play on fears about remaining in the EU. This can be seen to be in contrast with the Remain campaign, which has focused primarily on the economic risks of Brexit. Mandelson said that the Vote Leave campaign had started their campaign firmly focused on the economy, with the issue of immigration being left for Nigel Farage and the UKIP party. However, Mandelson now claims that the Vote Leave campaign has changed their approach and has begun to focus their interventions on immigration; including using this topic to shift blame in regards to education problems and the NHS. The EU referendum vote is due to take place on 23rd June.




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