EU-dependent cities need trade deal after Brexit, Centre for Cities says

30 Jan 17

Forging a trade deal with the European Union must be Britain’s top priority in negotiations, because the bloc is the largest export market for 61 of 62 of the nation’s cities, a think-tank has said.

Also, nearly half of all exports from British cities (46%) go to EU markets – three times more than the US, the second largest urban export market for the UK.

In its latest Cities Outlook 2017 report published today, the Centre for Cities analysed the geographical destinations of UK city exports, and their industrial make-up, in the context of Brexit.

It found the EU is the largest export market for all but one UK city. Only Hull exports more goods to another market – the US. Moreover, two thirds of British cities (41 out of 62) see more than half of their exports go to the EU.

The report highlighted that British cities would “have to dramatically increase trade with other international markets to compensate for a downturn in exports to the EU”. For example, to make up for a 10% decrease in exports to the bloc, cities in the UK would have to almost double exports to China or increase exports to the US by around a third (31%).

The West of England is disproportionately reliant on exports to the EU, with the great majority of total exports from cities in the region destined for the bloc. Out of all cities in the UK, the top three cities in terms of their dependence on EU exports are Exeter (70%), Plymouth (68%) and Bristol (66%).

The least dependent city in the UK is Derby, which still sends almost half (48%) of its exports to the EU, followed by Hull (29%).

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of the Centre for Cities, said: “Securing the best possible EU trade deal will be critical for the prosperity of cities across Britain, and should be the government’s top priority as we prepare to leave the single market and potentially the customs union.”

Jones highlighted that although pursuing ambitious new export targets to markets like 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.”

Data used in the report was drawn from the HMRC’s regional trade data and ONS estimates of services exports by region.

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