EU exports are a mere 12% of British economy: Trade figures show focus on Europe has steadily dropped in past five years
British businesses now earn £222.4billion by selling goods to EU countries
This is equivalent to just 12.1 per cent of the total economic output
Exports grew at a world-beating pace in 2015, for the first time since 2006
By JAMES BURTON, BANKING CORRESPONDENT FOR THE DAILY MAIL
30 July, 2016
Exports to the European Union now account for just 12 per cent of Britain’s economy and companies are looking elsewhere for trade.
The Office for National Statistics’ Pink Book – which details the economy’s reliance on imports and exports – shows our focus on Europe has dropped steadily for the past five years.
British businesses now earn £222.4billion by selling goods and services to EU countries – equivalent to 12.1 per cent of total economic output.
But the amount sold to nations outside the bloc is higher – at £287.9billion, or 15.7 per cent of the economy.
The ONS also said that British exports grew at a world-beating pace in 2015 for the first time since 2006.
It added: ‘Within this the UK has seen increased trade activity in goods with non-EU countries, with their share exceeding that of EU countries in the last four years.’
Campaigners argued that the figures showed the UK should look beyond the EU as it sought opportunities for growth.
They said the country was not reliant on the bloc and could afford to be bold in the Brexit negotiations ahead. John Longworth, former head of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘Exports to the EU represent an ever-smaller element of our economy but the benefits of Brexit are applicable to the whole of the economy.
‘Brexit will allow Britain to become a great trading nation once again. We need to grasp this opportunity.’
Goods exports to the EU now stand at £134billion, but we sell £151billion to the rest of the world.
Britain has sold more goods outside the EU than within it for the last four years. This started in 2012 as the eurozone plunged into crisis and has never recovered.
And in the services market – an area where Britain is particularly strong – we sell £88.9billion to Europe, but £136.6billion elsewhere.
Institute of Directors economist Michael Martins said the developing world was an increasingly important market for British goods.
As its consumers become richer, they get more discerning and seek out higher-quality goods and it is this area where Britain excels.
Since her appointment as Prime Minister, Theresa May has repeatedly stressed that Britain remains open for business and will be more outward-looking, not less.
She and fellow Cabinet ministers have been jetting across the world to talk up the nation, with new International Trade Minister Liam Fox holding talks with a host of nations about free trade deals to bring tariffs down.
Canada, New Zealand, Australia, China and India have all expressed an interest in new partnerships.
Even in America – despite President Barack Obama warning before the referendum that Britain would be at the ‘back of the queue’ if it voted to leave the EU – senior politicians are showing an interest. The Pink Book also highlights Britain’s long-standing trade deficit, which shows how much more we import than export.
This is a cause for concern, because net importers are more reliant on other nations and send more money to foreign countries than they earn in them.
The trade deficit now stands at £38.6billion, up from £36.2billion a year earlier.
And the EU sells £68.5billion more goods and services to the UK than the UK sells to it.
Although the deficit is generally a problem, it has been argued European exporters’ reliance on the UK makes their governments more likely to be flexible when it comes to striking a new deal.
Meanwhile, it emerged that government officials or prominent business figures in 27 countries have declared a desire to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain.
Out of the ten largest economies in the world, only two, France and Italy, have not yet made moves.
The impact of Brexit on the UK economy is likely to be short-lived, according to the boss of Barclays.
Speaking as the bank unveiled better than expected half-year profits of £2.1billion, Jes Staley stressed that they are willing to give credit to families and businesses.
The CEO said: ‘We’re open to extend credit and we’re going to do it prudently.’
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