Latest trade figures show EU’s relationship with Midlothian

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Businesses in East Lothian and Midlothian exported more than £80 million worth of goods to the EU last year, figures reveal.

The latest trade figures from HM Revenue and Customs show that 331 businesses registered in the East Lothian and Midlothian area exported goods to countries in the European Union during 2018.

Their combined sales came to £81m – 48 per cent of the total value of exports from the area.

Sales to non-EU countries brought in £89m over the course of the year. The figures only include trade in goods, and not services.

More businesses in East Lothian and Midlothian export to EU countries than to rest of the world – 331 compared to 282.

Across Scotland, 6,861 companies exported £17.3 billion worth of goods to the EU in 2018, with more businesses exporting within the bloc than outside of it in almost every area of the country.

SNP trade spokesman Stewart Hosie said: “Around 7,000 Scottish businesses currently trade with the EU barrier and tariff-free.

“Brexit will put an end to this and see sectors such as the Scottish whisky industry face huge disruption and punitive new costs and fisherman struggling to get their catch to the continent on time.”

Brexit has continued to dominate the general election campaign, with the main parties clashing over the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

While the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has agreed a withdrawal agreement with the EU – yet to be approved by Parliament – a no-deal Brexit still remains the default option if a trade deal is not agreed in the ensuing transition period, currently set to end on December 31 2020.

The Conservative Party insists the best way to provide certainty to businesses is to pass Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal with a Tory majority.

The Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader Sir Ed Davey said his was the only “major party wanting to protect the interests of businesses” by cancelling Brexit.

Labour meanwhile said it would negotiate a new deal that protects EU-UK trade, and put it to the people in a referendum for a final say.

A spokesman said: “Most areas in the UK benefit greatly from trade with our neighbours. That’s why Labour has always argued for a sensible deal that protects trade: a new customs union, a close single market relationship and guarantees of rights and protections.”

Business bodies including the British Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry have warned about the threat a disorderly exit would pose, as well as the introduction of tariffs if the UK leaves the customs union.

The CBI says a no-deal Brexit could result in an 8.1% drop in the value of goods and services produced in Scotland by 2034.

This would be an annual loss of more than £14 billion in today’s prices, more than the country’s entire day-to-day NHS budget.

The industry body warned Scotland’s agricultural and food industry – including Scotch whisky – was particularly at risk from possible disruption at ports or the introduction of tariffs.

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said the withdrawal agreement made clear a future relationship would be based on a free trade agreement, ensuring goods can continue to travel tariff free

She added: “This deal also gives us the freedom – for the first time in 40 years – to strike free trade deals with countries all over the world.

“This will be a huge boon for businesses and jobs, making it easier for British businesses to sell their fantastic products across the world.”

East Lothian and Midlothian businesses also imported £109 million worth of goods from the EU bloc in 2018 – 37 per cent of total imports.

Overall, 505 companies imported products from the EU, compared to 345 that traded with the rest of the world.