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Lawyers In For Britain: The UK and the EU: Benefits, misconceptions and alternatives banner

We believe there is a real danger that, by leaving the EU, the UK would be isolated and have less influence in the world. Some of the UK’s key partners have stated explicitly that the UK has greater influence within the EU and could be side-lined if it left.[1] President Obama confirmed that the US is “looking forward to the United Kingdom staying a part of the European Union”,[2] while his trade representative formally ruled out a preferential bilateral agreement for the UK.[3] Prime Minister Modi pointedly referred to the UK as India’s “entry point to the EU”,[4] while President Xi encouraged Britain “as an important member of the EU” to play a constructive role in strengthening China–EU ties.[5]

  • The EU consists of 28 Member States with a combined GDP of £11.3 trillion (the world’s largest) and population of 505 million (the world’s third largest).[6] The negotiating power of the EU Member States acting together is stronger than the UK alone, whose population is just 64 million and GDP £1.8 trillion.[7] We believe that the UK has more influence by participating fully in the EU than it does outside.
  • In certain areas, the EU institutions and Member States have a “shared competence” to take international action.[8] In such cases, the EU institutions benefit from greater negotiating power than any one Member State acting alone, while the UK (like any other Member State) retains the ability to advance its views independently.
  • In other areas, the EU institutions have an exclusive competence[9] to represent the EU Member States. Although the UK cannot act alone in these areas, the EU institutions and Member States generally negotiate and conclude these agreements together.[10] Again, the UK benefits from the negotiating power of the EU institutions, while retaining its own voice in those negotiations.
  • Since the early 1990s, and with the support of successive UK governments, the EU has participated in negotiations or concluded market opening agreements with the US, Canada, South Korea, Japan, ASEAN, GCC and Mercosur.[11] Leaving the EU would mean the UK would lose the benefits of these deals and would be excluded from the ambitious programme of future negotiations.[12] Indeed, the UK would be forced to renegotiate over 50 EU trade agreements – a lengthy and complex process.


More generally, the UK has an excellent record of advancing its position in the EU Council on areas of shared and exclusive competence. For example, in 2014, the UK played a leading role in many external issues,[13] including sanctions and other measures against Islamic State,[14] the Ebola response,[15] and the TTIP negotiations with the USA.[16] Indeed, a recent study concluded that the UK appears to be the best of all Member States in the EU Council at wielding significant influence.[17]


  1. The Economist, Most of Britain’s friends in the world would prefer it to stay in, 17 October 2015 –
  2. BBC News, Obama urges UK to stay in European Union, 24 July 2015 –
  3. The Financial Times, Top US trade official warns on Brexit, 28 October 2015 –
  4. BBC News, Modi visit: “Huge moment” for UK and India, 12 November 2015 –
  5. The Financial Times, China’s Xi Jinping urges UK to stay in EU, 23 October 2015 –
  6. Bank of England, EU membership and the Bank of England, October 2015, page 8 – All figures are for 2014.
  7. Bank of England, EU membership and the Bank of England, October 2015, page 8 – All figures are for 2014.
  8. Article 4 TFEU –
  9. Article 3 TFEU –
  10. See Gatti, Mauro and Manzini, Pietro, External Representation of the European Union in the Conclusion of International Agreements (2012). Common Market Law Review, Vol. 49, No. 5, 2012, pages 1711-1722 –
  11. EU Trade Agreements –
  12. European Commission, MEMO/13/1080, The EU’s bilateral trade and investment agreements –where are we?, 3 December 2013 –
  13. European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2015, UK: “While the UK debate on possible withdrawal from the EU reached new heights in 2014, at diplomatic level, the UK still led on 11 issues – putting it in joint second place with Sweden – and was a slacker twice. Leader rankings included TTIP, developing Russia sanctions, and countering ISIS’ advance.” –
  14. European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2015, Syria and Iraq
  15. European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2015, Ebola
  16. European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2015, Relations with the US on trade and investment
  17. S. Hix, UK Influence in Europe Series: Is the UK at the top table in EU negotiations?, LSA Blog, 16 November 2015 –