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Trade clubs like that emerging in Europe would encourage trade liberalisation among member states, creating extra trade, but they might discourage trade between member states and third countries, diverting trade into other less than optimal channels. The balance between trade creation and trade diversion was the net effect for the UK of entering the Common Market. On the whole the estimates of the likely gain were small. This was partly because the resources saved by buying newly-cheap industrial products from the rest of Europe rather than from the rest of the world were not huge, and partly because trade was only part of national output. Given that the UK would have to pay a significant fiscal contribution, and that its agriculture and food manufacturing would become grossly distorted by the Common Agricultural Policy, a strong economic argument could be made for staying out.

The tone of the economic discussion about the Common Market in the 1960s was more level-headed than that which came before and after the 2016 referendum. Given that accession certainly was not followed by a step jump in economic performance, the kind of analysis pursued by Viner and his contemporaries deserves respect. In particular, they kept things in proportion. By contrast, the results of the material reported on Buzzfeed are not just misguided and disproportionate. Arguably, they have even lost touch with common sense.

Exports of goods and services to the EU are important to the British economy, accounting for about 12 per cent of total demand for our output. But these exports are now somewhat less than exports to nations outside the EU, and anyhow both are overshadowed by domestic production to meet home-grown demand. Suppose that the 27 other EU members were wiped off the face of the earth, so that no further trade with them were possible. How much worse off would Britain be?

It is beyond question that Britain would be worse off to some extent. Trade creation and diversion would be on an enormous scale, as we tried to secure roughly the same living standards as at present. For example, the British people could have a car fleet of the same quality and size only if they sold more of a range of products to, say, the United States, Japan and Mexico, and perhaps to such countries as Turkey and Serbia (which are starting to become significant car producers). It could then import cars from these nations on a larger scale than at present, making up for the loss of German and French products. Transport costs in importing the cars (from Japan, Mexico and so on) would of course be higher.

After a few years new trade patterns would have settled down. The disappearance of the EU 27 would result in trade diversion losses well in excess of trade creation gains. Net, some loss of welfare would certainly have to be endured. But it is inconceivable that the loss of welfare could be 12 per cent of national output or even any figure near it. Why? The answer is simple, that the 160 or so countries of the non-EU world would both generate supply to meet continuing British demand and constitute markets for British products. The EU 27 can be replaced as trade partners. The UK would no longer send motor components to Germany, whisky to Spain and legal advice to French companies, which is a pity because they are nearby. But it would have virtually the same supply capacity as before, and the motor components, whisky and legal advice would instead be directed to North America, Asia and so on.
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