The total volume of trade between the UK and the EU plunged nearly a quarter in the first three months after the end of the Brexit transition agreement.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today showed that total trade fell 23.1 per cent in the quarter, as compared with the same three months in 2018.
On the other hand, trade with countries outside the bloc fell just 0.8 per cent in total, suggesting that Brexit, not coronavirus, was having the most impact.
The ONS said that it had used 2018 for comparison because it was “the most recent period in which relatively stable trade patterns were observed”.
However, it acknowledged that it was “difficult to fully detangle the impact the coronavirus and EU exit had on UK and international trade while they are still having an influence”.
Despite this, the figures present a sobering vision of the impact of the UK’s departure from the bloc on its commercial relations with its closest trading partner.
New customs checks in the Irish Sea meant that exports to Ireland fell the most out of any of the UK’s trading partners.
Exports of goods to Ireland fell by £1.0bn (47.3 per cent) in total between December 2020 and January 2021, the ONS said. The largest decreases were seen in the chemicals, live animals and food sectors.
Imports from Germany, which is the UK’s largest EU trading partner, dropped 30.5 per cent or £1.7 billion between December and January – the biggest fall in imports by value of goods of any major trading partner.