Access to the European Union single market has failed to benefit UK trade, analysis by a think-tank has suggested.
The study indicated that pro-European claims that the British economy gained a trade advantage by being a member of the 28-state bloc was “empty rhetoric”.
The report by centre-right think-tank Civitas said Britain’s trade with other EU nations accounts for no more of its trade with all leading economies than it did on joining the European Economic Community (ECC) in 1973.
Meanwhile, exports to non-EU nations Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have increased enormously over the same period.
The report analysed and compared figures since 1960 and concluded that there was no “insider advantage” to being within the EU in terms of exports.
Report author Michael Burrage, a director of Asian market research firm Cimigo, said: “Thus far, the single market has not enabled UK exports of goods or services to other members to grow at a faster rate than those of non-member exporters, nor at a faster rate than UK exports to non-member markets.
“It has been an era of decline for UK exporters, relative to both non-members in the same market, and to UK exports to other markets.”
The proportion of UK goods exported to Iceland, Norway and Switzerland has doubled from 5.1 per cent in 1973 to 10.7 per cent in 2012. Services exports to these nations trebled from 6.1 per cent to 20.2 per cent in the same period.