HC Deb 13 June 2002 vol 386 cc981-3
1. David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde)

What assessment she has made of the impact on British business of EU enlargement. [58215]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Miss Melanie Johnson)

European Union enlargement will benefit British business by creating the largest single market in the world, with nearly 500 million consumers, and a level playing field for business across Europe.

Yesterday, I urged British business to seize the opportunities created by EU enlargement at a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Department of Trade and Industry business press briefing.

David Cairns

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. She will be aware that tremendous goodwill towards the United Kingdom exists throughout the applicant countries. In fact, they would rather do business with the UK than with any of our competitors. She also knows, however, that those new jobs will not fall into our laps but have to be earned. In addition to the advice that she gave yesterday, will she outline what further advice and support the UK Government are able to give to British businesses to ensure that they can fully exploit the undoubted potential that will arise post-enlargement?

Miss Johnson

We have given a wide range of advice and much help to British business. Indeed, as a result of British Trade International's opportunity central Europe campaign, an extra 1,000 companies registered an interest in being involved in central Europe—that is in addition to the 15,000 companies that Trade Partners UK estimates are already exporting to or investing in the region. The website that I launched yesterday provides a number of links to key support and help for firms interested in that development.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

I am sure that the hon. Lady is right when she says that we can only benefit by enlargement of the European Union, but the question concerned what assessment she has made. Is she aware that the Minister for Europe told me in a parliamentary written answer that the Government have made no assessment, nor have they any intention of ever making one, on the costs or the benefits of our membership of the European Union, whether it be enlarged or not? Will she please go to her colleague, the Minister for Europe, who is responsible for these matters, and ask that the Foreign Office for the first time conduct such an assessment without any further delay?

Miss Johnson

The hon. Gentleman is talking about membership of the European Union, not about EU enlargement. The point is that that enlargement will create 2 million new jobs in the candidate countries, and we estimate that it will create an extra 300,000 new jobs in existing EU member states. Indeed, the estimated gain to the United Kingdom's gross domestic product is £1.75 billion.

Michael Fabricant

Where does that figure come from?

Miss Johnson

It is from independent research conducted in 1997.

Mr. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith)

Does my hon. Friend agree that our country's many creative industries, for example film and broadcasting, are one of the areas of British business that would greatly benefit from EU enlargement into central Europe? I am sure that she is aware of the excellent proposals that the British Council is putting forward to allow our creative industries to expand their contacts and networks in central and eastern Europe. Will she join me in welcoming those proposals and could she give her Department's support for them?

Miss Johnson

Indeed I can join my hon. Friend in welcoming that initiative. It is another example of the many benefits that will accrue to us and the industries concerned through enlargement. The Department will give its full support for just that sort of enlargement activity.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

I have been a pro-European for 40 years, enthusiastic about enlargement as it will underpin the emerging democracies of eastern Europe, but will the Minister take into account the problem that the one-size-fits-all single currency implies a huge transfer of funds from the more successful economic regions of Europe to the less successful, such as my region in the north-east? Would not enlargement make that problem that much more difficult to solve?

Miss Johnson

As I said, there will be real gains both to the candidate countries and to existing EU member states because of the economic benefits of enlargement for all parties. Obviously, it is a matter for individual countries that accede to the EU under enlargement when and how they join the euro, just as that is a matter for debate and consideration in this country.

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