Britain’s record trade deficit means European countries would be desperate to agree trade deals with the UK if it votes to leave the European Union (EU) in June, pro-Brexit campaigners have said.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the UK imported £8.1 billion more goods from the EU than it exported to the bloc in January. Between December and January, Britain’s EU exports increased by £12 million to £10.9 billion.
Meanwhile, the amount of goods the UK imported from the EU also increased by £0.7 million to £18.9 billion.
The Express reports that pro-Brexit campaigners have seized on the figures as further proof that EU member states would want to set up new trade to deals with Britain as quickly as possible if it left the bloc.
Campaign group Leave.EU said: “We have the trade leverage, it’s more in their interest than ours to create a free trade agreement.”
UKIP trade spokesman William Dartmouth added: “It is clear the EU has an increasing dependency on trade with the UK, these figures show that it would be a commercial imperative for the EU not to speed through a trade deal post-Brexit.
“A trade deal is not absolutely necessary but these figures confirm that in practice it is inevitable.
“The numbers also show a decreasing trade deficit between the UK and the rest of the world, further showing how the UK has a very bright and prosperous future outside the UK.”
The figures come as the head of the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund said it would invest even more if the UK if it leave the EU.
Yngve Slyngstad, chief executive of Norway’s £884bn fund, said: “We will continue to be a significant investor in the UK at about the same level as we are today and probably even increasing our investments there no matter what happens. All changes entail some risk but we would not categorize it as a significant risk.”
Iceland’s Prime Minister also floated the idea of opening trade talks with Britain in the event of Brexit.
“The UK is one of our most important trading partners and whatever you decide to do we would like to have a free trade deal with you, whether through the EEA [European Economic Area] or independently,” he said.