This week, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Single Market, and it is a good moment to look back at how our relationship with Europe has changed over that time.
Since 1992, the UK’s trade with EU member states has more than trebled.
Currently, 3.5 million jobs – 11% of the UK’s workforce – rely on trade with Europe, and 1.5 million Britons are living and studying in other EU countries.
The UK is the largest recipient of inward investment in Europe.
Italy, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands are among the top 12 sources of investment into the UK, and some 400,000 people are employed here by German firms alone.
Consumers have benefitted: from passengers who were refunded for cancelled flights after the eruption of the Icelandic volcano; to patients receiving medicines in the knowledge that they are among the safest in the world; to households whose utility bills have come down thanks to greater competition.
Because of the single market, some 140 million people have seen the price of the international mobile phone calls plummet by 75% after mobile phone companies were banned from charging four times more than the real cost.
The EU has also helped us negotiate trade deals with other countries, opening up more markets for British business. The Free Trade Agreement with Korea, for instance, is expected to benefit UK businesses by £500m.
There is much that has been achieved, but we think there is much more we can do.
The benefits of the Single Market now need to be extended to the goods and services of the twenty-first century.
On Thursday, I will be attending a UK Government and EU Commission conference that will focus on the barriers to trade we must tackle if the next twenty years are to bring further prosperity.
Recent economic evidence suggests that trade between the UK and the EU is running at 45% below its potential, and that removing obstacles to trade could result in an increase of 7% in income per capita in the UK.
Online trading, where the UK is a world leader, is one of the areas we will discuss.
Last year, just under half of EU consumers ordered goods or services online, but less than 10% bought from suppliers in other countries. If price comparison were effective across the EU, consumers could save at least €11.7bn per year.
And a Dutch report suggests that a free market in services could almost double current trade.
The last twenty years have been a time of startling change in the UK, and our membership of a £11 trillion marketplace has helped to promote that change.
What we need now is to achieve reforms to the single market that will help UK companies and consumers in the decades to come.