UK Markets closed

UK exports to the EU surge on weaker pound

James Crisp
Britain is a good customer for EU companies, with a goods trade deficit of €53bn in the first half of the year

Britain’s factories benefited from a surge in sales to the EU in the first half of this year as export growth outstripped import growth.

The UK still imports far more than it exports leaving the country with a goods deficit amounting to €53bn (£48bn) for the six months to June in its trade with the EU, but that is down from €57.8bn in the same period of 2016.

A weaker pound means British-made goods are more competitive abroad, while imports are more expensive to UK companies and consumers.

Britain exports €104bn of goods to the rest of the world, outweighing the €94.7bn of goods it sends to EU customers. But UK imports from the EU amount to €147.7bn, while those from elsewhere come in at €134.7bn.

The UK's total trade deficit has shrunk from €102.2bn in the first half of 2016 to €83.7bn this year.

The annual snapshot of international trade, published by Eurostat, lends weight to arguments that the EU depends heavily on Britain’s market for its products but also showed that British business relies on trade with the bloc.

The British trade deficit could give leverage to British Brexit negotiators who travel to Brussels for the third round of talks next month. This week the government published a position paper calling for UK-EU trade to remain as frictionless as possible.

In June Germany exported almost twice as much to Britain as it imported - €6.8bn to €3.6bn - leaving the UK with a €3.2bn deficit in the month.

France, the other member state with the most influence on the Brexit talks, sold €2.9bn-worth of goods to Britain and imported just over €2.7bn, leaving a more modest gap of €178m.

But Britain sold more goods to Ireland (€1.9bn) than it imported (€1.2bn). Preserving the “invisible border” between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be discussed by British and EU Brexit negotiators in the week of August 28.

At the same time the Food and Drinks Federation said exports from Britain soared 8.5pc to a record high of £10.2bn in the first half of the year.

“It is great to see such strong growth in our exports to EU Member States," said the group's director general Ian Wright.

"The EU remains an essential market for UK exports as well as for supplies of key ingredients and raw materials used by our industry. We believe there are significant opportunities to grow our sector’s exports further still."