By Daniel Hunter

The European Union (EU) is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Single Market this week with events across the continent, including a high-level conference today (Thursday) at Lancaster House in London.

The Government is taking the opportunity of Single Market Week to remind Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) that, despite problems in the Eurozone, the EU should remain the top export target for British SMEs. In 2011, 47 per cent of all UK exports went to the EU, worth £234 billion.

In particular, businesses should look for opportunities as the EU admits new member states, such as Croatia. UK businesses have seen exports rise by almost 100 per cent amongst new member states more than double the rate for the EU as a whole. For example, UK trade with Poland has trebled to £5.7 billion since it joined the EU in 2004.

Speaking at Lancaster House, UK Innovation Minister David Willetts said:

“The Government is absolutely committed to supporting British businesses looking to export or win business in Europe. The Single Market has benefited the UK economy by removing barriers and new technology means the opportunities for business to sell in Europe are greater than ever. UK firms like GSPK Circuits Ltd and Melrose have all seen impressive growth thanks to winning business in the EU.”

UK Trade Minister Lord Green, who also attended the event, said:

“The Single Market is the world’s largest trading bloc and even as new markets develop remains our most important trading partner. British businesses are well placed to take advantage of opportunities to export in Europe as they are around the world.

“I regularly travel to different countries around the EU and I am in no doubt that the opportunities for British companies to export are vast and I strongly encourage businesses to seize them.”

The event at Lancaster House will be opened by Minister for Europe, David Lidington and attended by business, academics and other interested parties. Discussions will focus on services, e-commerce, low carbon and innovation.

Earlier this month, the Government has awarded UK Trade & Investment an additional £13 million to help thousands more British firms export, the majority of which will be used to help boost trade opportunities for SMEs.

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