UK must double China exports to offset 10% drop to EU: study

The extent of UK cities’ reliance on Europe for income and wealth creation earned via exports is revealed in a new report from the Centre for Cities.

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The annual Cities Outlook, published by Centre for Cities, shows the EU is the biggest market for 61 of the 62 UK cities covered in the study.The report also estimates that to make up just a 10 per cent drop in their current export levels to the EU, businesses based in UK cities’ would need to almost double their exports to China, or increase exports to the US by around a third.However, the UK’s productivity – especially in manufacturing industries – will need to improve to achieve this, the body concludes.

Brexit, productivity and the industrial strategy

“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," commented Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities. "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.""The UK faces a major challenge in boosting productivity and wages, and increasing the value and volume of city exports will be crucial in addressing those issues."National and local leaders need to consider how they can make cities more attractive to exporting firms. Improving skills and infrastructure across the UK will be vital in this, and should be a central part of the government’s industrial strategy.”

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EU largest destination for UK exports

The report, which draws on official statistics prepared by the Office for National Statistics and HMRC, shows the value of the 62 cities' exports to the EU is three times larger than those to the USA and 11 times larger than exports to China in 2014.Findings from the research and advisory body’s Cities Outlook 2017 index highlights the potential impact on trade and labour markets in UK cities following exit from the EU and potentially the customs union. The study also indicates the scale and complexity of the challenge facing Britain’s EU negotiators and policy makers in terms of managing the impact on communities and industries.The Centre for Cities is calling for broad-based trade deals that cover as many sectors as possible "rather than prioritising deals for high-profile industries based in a small number of places." It believes broad trade agreements for all goods and services "will help every city to build on its exporting strengths".

Which cities export most and least to EU?

According to the research, two-thirds of British cities (41 out of 62) trade half or more of their exports to the EU, with cities overall accounting for 62 per cent of total exports.Exeter, Plymouth, Bristol and Mansfield and Cardiff are most reliant on EU markets for exports. They rank as the top five cities for share of exports at between 70­–61 per cent respectively of overall exports.Those exporting least to the EU at between 25­–35 per cent are, in order of smallest share to largest, Derby, Hull, Ipswich, Coventry and Telford ­– four of which are in the traditional manufacturing heartland of the UK.Edinburgh and Glasgow feature at 7 and 9 in this ranking of smallest export share to the UK.However, Aberdeen, at number 6, has the largest share of exports to the EU, with the Netherlands being a key destination.

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