EU will be harder hit by Brexit than UK: Study

LONDON • The European Union would be hit harder than the United Kingdom if Britain faced trade barriers following its decision to leave the bloc, according to a report published yesterday. 

About 5.8 million jobs are linked to trade with Britain, while only 3.6 million British posts are dependent on exports to the EU, policy analyst Civitas said in the report. The EU also has a greater proportion of its labour market at stake.

The findings may provide a boost for Prime Minister Theresa May as she prepares for negotiations to take Britain out of the EU.

Mrs May has said she wants to retain as much free trade as possible and set immigration curbs, prompting EU leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel to accuse Britain of trying to "cherry pick" its exit terms.

"Based on the potential impact on jobs, each EU country should be aware of the significant economic benefit in terms of jobs stemming from trade with the UK," said Mr Justin Protts, research fellow at Civitas. "The EU does arguably have to negotiate as a bloc. However, each of the 27 remaining national government should be negotiating in the interests of those that democratically elected them."

Civitas said 3.2 per cent of all German jobs are linked to exports to the UK, whereas only 2.4 per cent of British jobs are reliant on Germany. Almost one in 10 jobs in Ireland, Malta, Cyprus and Belgium is connected to trade with the UK.

"It will be the pressure of their citizens on national governments that will force continental politicians to recognise that what is good for Britain and British workers is also good for their own populations," said Mr Christopher Mills, business spokesman for the UK Independence Party, which campaigned for Brexit.

Meanwhile, EU governments started their meeting in the Slovak capital Bratislava yesterday to discuss the bloc's flagging trade deals as the forces of populism that triggered Brexit look to claim their next victim.

Trade ministers are to consider how to breathe fresh life into the nearly concluded EU-Canada free trade agreement, and will debate whether it is time to quit talks on the more controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership pact with the US.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2016, with the headline 'EU will be harder hit by Brexit than UK: Study'. Print Edition | Subscribe