The EU27 mostly trades with itself.
Only two EU countries The tiny island of Cyprus, and the UK export more to the rest of the world than they do within the EU itself.
Reliance on the EU’s Single Market — 2018
26 of the EU27 countries rely on each other for the majority of their exports.
The EU27 (without the UK) export 34.3% of their total exports outside the EU
5 countries export less than 20% of their total exports outside the EU
Eg Slovakia on 14.3%
6 countries export 20–30% of their total exports outside the EU
Eg Romania on 22.9%
6 countries export 30–40% of their total exports outside the EU
Eg Bulgaria on 31.4%
9 countries export 40–50% of their total exports outside the EU
Eg Sweden on 40.5%
Only 2 countries export more than half of their total exports outside the EU
They are tiny Cyprus and the UK.
It is clear from the above that the interests of the EU27 countries are not aligned with those of the UK when it comes to international trade. For the EU27 as an entity, the Single Market and Customs Union are much more important to them than they are to the UK.
This might sound like an obvious observation to make. However this overall point — that the UK is a member of an organisation which has different interests — is rarely made. Or if it is made, it isn’t backed with facts.
For decades the UK has been shackled to a political organisation whose objectives it generally doesn’t share, and whose interests do not coincide with the UK’s interests.
Readers might then ask why the UK joined in the first place?
One answer, of course, is that we didn’t join the EU. We joined the Common Market or ‘European Economic Community’. At that time it had just six members: Germany, France, and Italy, plus the three Benelux countries.
As to the question of why the UK has not benefited from the Single Market and Customs Union in the way other EU countries have, that’s a big question with many answers, which we have covered across hundreds of articles in the last three years.
THE KEY TAKEAWAY FROM THIS ARTICLE IS SIMPLY:
All but 1 of the EU27 rely on the EU’s Single Market for the majority of their exports
The UK doesn’t, and the EU’s share of UK exports has been steadily falling over the decades.
[ Sources: Official Eurostat data for 2018 ]