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The UK will be 15 years late in hitting a Conservative government target of £1tn in annual exports after trade was hit by Brexit difficulties, it has emerged.
The government’s own projections have revealed that the value of British exports will not hit £1tn until 2035, despite a pledge by David Cameron that the goal would be achieved by 2020.
Boris Johnson later revived the promise and said the target would be reached by 2030 – but Department for International Trade (DIT) estimates now show it won’t be hit until five years later.
Tory trade minister Andrew Bowie revealed the latest projections in a parliamentary answer – which also showed that exports are expected fall to £707bn next year from £739bn last year.
“Extrapolations of the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast suggest £1tn exports could be achieved by around 2035 without additional intervention,” said the Tory MP.
More than 40 per cent of British products previously exported to the EU have disappeared from European shelves since Brexit, according to research published at the end of last year.
Economists at the Centre for Business Prosperity at Aston University said the export gap created by Brexit has “widened rather than closed” in the first year of the new barriers being put in place.
But Mr Bowie blamed an international economic slowdown for the trade slump. “We recognise the speed by which the UK reaches this milestone will be impacted by macroeconomic factors such as global demand and exchange rates,” the MP said.
The minister added: “This has proven to be the case over the past year where we have experienced external shocks and a spike in inflation.”
Labour’s shadow trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Tories’ record on exports was one of “failure and broken promises”, adding: “This failure will mean the UK missing out on growth and job opportunities, risking us falling further down the world economic rankings.”
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said new, post-Brexit trade barriers and a sluggish economy had led to “the continued suppression of exports”.
The body had previously warned that seven in 10 British firms exporting to the EU have encountered problems, and that almost one in four had suspended exports altogether.
Brexit-backers have pointed to the UK’s ability to strike independent free trade deals outside of the EU. But the majority of deals were merely “rollover” agreements which persevered existing arrangements.
Labour has pointed to DIT figures showing that the deal struck with Japan in 2020 by the then-trade secretary Liz Truss has been an “irrefutable” failure.
British exports to Japaan declined from £12.3bn to £11.9bn in the year ending in June 2022 – including a 4.9 per cent slump in goods.
Britain’s export growth has fallen well behind that of other major countries, including Germany and the US, since the Tories came to power, according to figures collated by the Commons Library