Fear for good reason – European trade remains vital for Birmingham

The West Midlands is this country’s export success story – one of the only cities in the western world boasting a trade surplus to China.

Which means we have the most to lose.

But for all the £6.3 billion worth of goods this region traded with the Far Eastern superpower last year, that pales into insignificance to the £32.1 billion with fellow European countries.

There have been arguments put forward from Brexiters that the common market is no longer where the growth is – and we should be looking further afield.

The Birmingham Mail backs Remain

But you will struggle to find a small business export success story that does not begin in Europe. Fledgling companies – the backbone of our economy – are not going to crack Indonesia without trying Ireland first.

At the heart of the debate on trade is the common market.

Leaving the European Union means we either strike a deal or follow World Trade Organisation rules on tariffs.

Nobody knows what that deal would look like but most likely you either pay the price – tariffs, which would deter investment jobs – or accept free movement of Labour, as Norway has.

The Leave camp rightly point out that we are a larger and more powerful nation than Norway – but ultimately have no precedent to draw on. We simply cannot know where we will stand.

If Jaguar Land Rover has to pay a 10 per cent charge to supply the biggest market in the world, it would almost be its duty to start supplying it from continental Europe, not the West Midlands.

That is a threat to foreign investment. It throws major doubt if a foreign investor like Tata would have thrown its weight behind the West Midlands when it would have been more cost efficient to look to continental Europe.

The front page of the Birmingham Mail on June 20 - revealing our support for remaining in the European Union The front page of the Birmingham Mail on June 20 – revealing our support for remaining in the European Union

Last year, foreign investment into the Greater Birmingham area created and safeguarded more than 6,100 jobs.

Business hates uncertainty – and that has shown with the likes of Asda, HSBC and, Vodafone pleading not to play fast and loose with our place in the Common Market – and with days to go before the referendum, I see no reason why Birmingham shouldn’t fear it too.

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