The European Union is the most important market for all but one of the UK’s cities, new research has found, underlining the country’s dependence on the trading bloc and the risks to jobs and growth posed by a damaging Brexit deal.
A report from the Centre for Cities think tank found that 46 per cent of exports from the country’s urban areas are sent to the EU, three times more than to the US and 11 times more than to China.
The 62 cities included in the research account for 62 per cent of total exports. Hull was the only city that didn't count the EU as its main trading partner because it exports a large amount of pharmaceutical products to the US.
The Government has stressed that it aims to dampen the potential negative impacts of Brexit by negotiating new trade deals with economies such as India, Australia and the US. Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson claimed in January that countries were "queuing up" to sign such agreements.
But, as Prime Minister Theresa May returned from a much-criticised trip to the US to meet President Donald Trump, the report's figures show just how much the country would have to increase trade with the rest of the world to make up for any decrease in European trade.
To offset a 10 per cent drop in EU exports, the UK would have to almost double its exports to China or increase those to the US by a third, the think tank concluded.
Centre for Cities chief executive, Alexandra Jones, said the Government should be focused firmly on agreeing the best possible EU trade deal as the country prepares to leave the single market and potentially the customs union.
“While it’s right to be ambitious about increasing exports to countries such as the US and China, the outcome of EU trade negotiations will have a much bigger impact on places and people up and down the country,” Ms Jones said
In a landmark Brexit speech in January, Ms May confirmed that the country will pull out of the single market when it leaves the EU, finally ending months of uncertainty and confusion.
She said her aim would be the “greatest possible access” to EU markets through a “comprehensive free trade agreement” – although, critics say, that could take many years to achieve.
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