HL Deb 27 September 2000 vol 616 cc160-1WA
Lord Harrison

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether it is their view that Euroscepticism, as detailed in the European Commission's recent publication A Glossary of Eurosceptic Beliefs, discourages British business and industry, and especially small and medium-sized enterprises, from fully and enthusiastically participating in the Single European Market. [HL3648]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

I believe the European Commission's booklet performs a useful function in dispelling some of the myths about our membership of the EU. The fact is that the Single Market is a success and has brought substantial benefits to British business. Countries in the EU now account for 53 per cent of our exports in goods and services, worth around £120 billion last year; eight of our top ten trading partners are in Europe; and the Treasury estimates that over 3 million jobs are linked to trade with the EU. The UK has the largest number of inward investors in Europe and is seen by US and Japanese investors as a springboard into Europe. Our membership of the Single Market is a key part of the reason.

Despite this, it is possible that misinformation about the EU might make small businesses wary of seizing the opportunities presented by their access to the world's largest single market. That is why my department has on hand a comprehensive range of support services, available through the Small Business Service, Trade Partners UK and the Action Single Market team, to help businesses find their feet in Europe. My department is also actively targeting, through constructive engagement with colleagues in other member states, the weaknesses which do remain in the Single Market so that British businesses can compete on equal terms with their European colleagues.

To underpin the importance of creating a friendly environment for small firms within the EU, this Government played a leading role in securing agreement at the Feira European Council on a Small Firms Charter. The charter commits the EU to a range of actions to allow enterprise and small firms to flourish within the EU.

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