The relative performance of the bigger EU countries in terms of GDP per capita has been interesting over the period 2006 to 2017 (i.e. from just before the financial crisis. ) If we look at the average for the EU-28 as a whole (100), only Germany has managed to increase its relative position, rising from 116 in 2006 to 124 in 2017. By contrast, Spain, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, have seen a fall in their GDP per capita relative to the average. Actually, Spain and Italy have moved from an above-average position to a below-average position: in other words their per capita GDP in purchasing power parities is now below the average for the EU-28. The UK has seen a decline from 116 to 110 but it is still above the EU average.
It’s also interesting to look at some of the outsiders, not part of the EU. Switzerland, for instance was already in a very strong position in 2006, with income per capita at 150, i.e. 50 per cent above the average income in the EU-28. The US in 2006 was even better off at 155. However, between then and 2018, Switzerland did even better rising to 160 but the US fell back to 141. Finally, Japan which was at 110 in 2006, has fallen to 99, in other words below the average income in the EU, which is rather remarkable.
GDP per capita in PPS
Index (EU28 = 100)
Data from 1st of December 2018. (Source Eurostat)
In 2006 the euro area (18 countries) was above the average for the EU as a whole, at 109, and the UK higher again at 116. However by 2018 the positions had reversed. The euro-area had fallen to 106 while the UK had fallen further to 105. In other words, people in the UK used to be better off than people in the eurozone. And now they’re worse off. Maybe if the UK had joined the euro, it might have done better.
If the UK leaves the European Union, it may not be forever. A change of government, and a change of heart, and, perhaps, economic realities in the UK, may after some years cause opinion to shift and the UK to reapply for membership. In such a situation, however, there won’t be much enthusiasm on the EU side for all the opt-outs that the UK had secured in the past, whether for budget rebates , abstaining from the Schengen agreement, or for staying out of the euro.