The continued climb in exports suggests companies have largely adapted to a wave of new regulations introduced by the Brexit deal, although industry bodies continue to report problems.
Overall, goods trade with the EU is about a fifth below pre-pandemic levels this year, with much of the shortfall on the imports side. Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at consultancy Pantheon Macroeconomics, said exports into the bloc were also about 9pc lower than 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.
“That is a disappointing performance, given the boom in global trade flows,” he said. “UK exporters have lost market share.”
Meanwhile the UK’s economic recovery gained pace in April as non-essential retailers and outdoor hospitality re-opened and more pupils returned to on-site schooling.
GDP climbed 2.3pc during the month – the fastest rise since July 2020, but slightly below economists’ expectations for 2.4pc growth.
Overall output remains 3.7pc below the pre-pandemic levels seen in February last year, but has topped its previous recovery peak in October.
The dominant services sector provided the biggest uplift, with output growing 3.4pc during the month.
Consumer-facing services surged as restrictions were eased, rising 12.7pc. Retail, education and hospitality were the fastest-growing sectors, with some bars and restaurants able to begin serving customers outdoors.
Economists have raised their expectations for the UK’s recovery in response to a strong vaccine rollout, signs of pent-up demand and lower-than-expected unemployment.