By Danika Thomson

European FlagThe news of the recent parliamentary bill, which sets down plans for a possible referendum regarding UK’s involvement in the EU, has certainly raised many questions for the UK population and businesses.

So what does being part of the EU currently mean for small or medium businesses in the UK who are trading with Europe and how do we benefit from the membership?

According to the official government website, which advises businesses on trading with the EU, our membership entitles us to several benefits.

By being a Member State of the European Union the United Kingdom is part of the world’s largest single market – an economic zone larger than that of the USA and Japan combined with a total GDP of around £11 trillion.  This single market of 500 million people provides a relatively level playing for British business to trade in.  This enables not just free trade in terms of the absence of customs duties or tariffs but a common set of rules so that business does not have to comply with 27 different sets of regulations.”

So how would this change if we were to leave the EU?

The alternative to membership in the EU would be to enter into the EEA (European Economic Area) or EFTA (European Free Trade Asscoiation) This could only be achieved by implementing a series of bilateral treaties between the UK and EU which established rules relating to trade, agriculture, immigration etc. This type of agreement already exists between the EU and is non members, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, entitling them to trade freely within the European single market.

The countries above are still required to provide financially towards the EU budget as well as that of their own. In fact, despite being a non-member, with no say into the formation of the European laws, or access to European funding, Norway now pays 340 million euros per annum making it the 10th highest contributor towards the EU budget.

So what European funding is currently open to UK businesses and how do we access it?

For more information go to the The European Small Business Portal where you can choose to apply for grants, loans, guarantees, funding specific projects, indirect funding through national and local intermediaries.

Has your business been given a helping hand by European funding?

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  • Linda

    When I drive around Wales it always makes me wonder why so many people complain about the European Union. I think people should start counting how many bridges, cycle paths, play centres etc. are actually part-founded by the European Union. Not to mention about the benefits for businesses (e.g. GoWales scheme) or the possibility to hire skilled workers without the stress and hassle of a visa application.