Europe minister Peter Hain and competition minister Melanie Johnson called on business to prepare now and take advantage of an expanded single market of 500 million potential customers.
In 2004, the European Union is expected to extend its membership to 10 more countries – Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta, while in 2007 Bulgaria and Romania are set to join, while Turkey is also an applicant.
Speaking at the launch of the DTI’s EU enlargement business website Hain said the EU was likely to take in 10 new members in 18 months time.
‘Such an expansion is unprecedented and will mean massive opportunities for British business. It will give them access to a single market of 500m consumers – bigger than the US and Japan combined – meaning more trade, prosperity and jobs.’
Johnson said firms needed to start planning now in order reap the benefits which ‘other European firms have already spotted’.
The new market is estimated to create 300,000 jobs across the EU, with the UK’s national income to increase by £1.75bn.