Encouraging signals that the UK will ultimately secure a good post-Brexit trade deal emerged at the Semex Dairy Conference when a senior commission official emphasised the mutual benefits of such an outcome.
Tom Tynan, a member of EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan’s cabinet, set out the value of bilateral trade between the EU and the UK, and pointed out that the EU 27 had a positive trade balance with the UK of 20 billion euros.
“That is enormous, so we have huge exposure in that market. From a trade perspective the UK, as the second-biggest economy in Europe, is very important,” he said.
“As a commission official I can’t make comment on how it’s [the negotiations] going to go, but I can put it into context, and it’s a bit like what Bill Clinton said back in 1992 : ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’”
Mr Tynan said Mr Hogan was taking centre stage in articulating the importance of agricultural and food trade during the Brexit deliberations of the European College of Commissioners.
“Commissioner Hogan has continued to speak very strongly and constructively on Brexit with stakeholders and around the College [of Commissioners] table. Within the College, Michele Barnier is our chief negotiator, but there’s enormous respect for Commissioner Hogan and the role he can play,” he said .
“In turn he will continue to articulate the importance of agriculture and food, because he represents UK farmers and the UK industry. You will remain a member of the EU until the day you leave.”
Turning to the significance of European markets to the UK, Mr Tynan said: “Trade halves as distance doubles. That’s a fact.
“So here are you looking on to 430m consumers in the EU27 right on your doorstep. Anyone in the UK that thinks the EU isn’t important to the economy is living in cuckoo land. Absolute cuckoo land, because it comes back to money and growth. You have an EU 27 growing at 2.4% GDP and they have buying power, they’ve come through austerity and the predictions for this year are for more of the same, maybe 2.4% or 2.5%.
“It still comes down to the level of bilateral trade.”