According to the latest data release from Eurostat – the European Commission’s official statistical branch – exports to the United Kingdom grew more between 2021 and 2022 than any other country, making Brexit Britain arguably the EU’s most important growing trading partner.
The data shows that only the United States spent more on EU goods and services for that period, but the rate of growth was slightly slower, showing the potential for further growth in trade with the UK.
The figures show that, in January 2021, the EU exported €18.5billion (£15.6billion) from the UK, but by January 2022, that figure had risen to €23.3billion (£19.6billion), a leap of 25.9 percent.
Comparatively, the US spent €28.2billion (£23.7billion) on EU goods in January 2021, and €35.4billion (£29.8billion) in January 2022, a growth of 25.5 percent.
On imports, the figures are even more startling.
In January 2021, EU imports from the UK measured at €6.5billion (£5.4billion), and by January 2022, that figure had grown a staggering 112.3 percent to €13.8billion (£11.6billion).
EU imports from its main trading partners were up across the board, the figures show.
In terms of net worth, the largest chunk of imported goods comes from China, a trend which has been evident for many years, with €50billion (£42.1billion) worth of goods imported in January 2022.
But in terms of import growth, the UK was second only to Norway for the 2021/22 period, with Norway seeing a 160 percent increase in imports to the EU.
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Dr Robin Niblett, director of the UK’s leading foreign policy think tank, Chatham House, criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his role in the animosity between the nations.
Dr Niblett said that “continuing to fuel a fractious relationship with this major neighbouring institution carries clear risks for the UK’s economy.”
He said that inconsistencies in the pursuit of new trade deals have “opened the Government up to damaging accusations of hypocrisy and are out of step with the UK’s role as a champion of liberal democratic governance”.
He added: “As a newly minted solo power that is still reintroducing itself on the world stage, justifiable accusations of double standards and evidence of hypocrisy will be deeply damaging.
“There will be no more precious asset in the future for Britain’s influence in the world than a reputation for consistency.”
Meanwhile, separate data has shown that the UK’s goods exports have underperformed when compared to the rest of the globe for the same period.
Last week, the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, known as the CPB, published its world trade monitor, which incorporates data from the Office for National Statistics in the UK.
The report showed that the volume of UK goods exports fell 14 percent in the three months to January 2022, in stark contrast to the global average of an 8.2 percent increase over the same period.
The analysis also showed that the UK was underperforming over the long term as it was the only country tracked by the CPB where goods exports remained below the 2010 average.
Commenting on the trends, the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said this week that the UK “lagged behind the domestic economic recovery” and had “missed out on much of the recovery in global trade”.
As a result, the UK had become a less trade-intensive economy, which was expected to knock out 4 per cent of its productivity over the next 15 years, it added.
The OBR noted that “none of the new free trade agreements or other regulatory changes announced so far would be sufficient” to have a material impact on its forecasts for UK trade.
Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said the UK trade data was complicated by changes in methodologies but “the bigger picture [was] that exports [were] still struggling to recover from Brexit and the pandemic”.
However, the UK’s Brexit opportunities minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has sought to assure the public that negative impacts from Brexit were “few and far between”.
Asked about negative OBR forecasting in February, Mr Rees-Mogg told the BBC that Covid was to blame for the “most enormous disruptions to supply chains”.
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He added: “We’ve had containers simply being stuck in the wrong place, being stuck in Chinese ports, being stuck in the port of Los Angeles.
“This has been a global trade issue – and we do have to recover from the problems of Covid”.
Asked whether Brexit had reduced UK trade, he replied: “I think Brexit has been extremely beneficial for the country.
“I think the evidence that Brexit has caused trade drops is few and far between.”