As Brexit negotiations begin in earnest, the future of the EU and Britain’s relationship still remains unclear.
However, one thing is for certain: if Britain withdraws from the single market, British industries are likely to suffer. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the EU is the UK’s biggest single trading partner, accounting for 48 percent of goods exports from the UK and 39 percent of services exports in 2016.
British industries have flourished in certain areas, with London being the centre of finance and the North a key zone for construction and manufacturing. Due to this geographic concentration of industries, some areas could well suffer more than others should the Brexit negotiations have a negative outcome for the UK.
British businesses enjoy free trade with the EU at the moment, but a failure to reach a trade agreement could mean facing tariffs and quotas under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Auto sector faces challenges
The auto sector is particularly reliant on trade with the EU for both export sales and imports of key components in the production process. The EU accounted for 42 percent of UK car exports and 88 percent of imports in 2016 – meaning the North East of England could be set to feel the impact.
Financial services is another key area, with London one of Europe’s most important cities in the sector. Several large banks have already begun looking at moving abroad, with Barclays announcing plans to create a new headquarters in Dublin just last week. However, these moves could well have a big impact on not just London, but the rest of Britain too; recent ONS figures indicated that London is the largest net contributor to UK public finances.
Problems for areas with high proportion of migrant workers
Britain employs a large migrant workforce across many sectors, including hotels and restaurants, construction and public services.
Employment in hotels and restaurants is concentrated in coastal areas of Britain. West Somerset, Weymouth and Portland and the Isle of Scilly have higher than average proportions of jobs in the sector, meaning local economies in those areas could face staff shortages if EU nationals were to leave en masse. More than 210,000 EU nationals were employed in UK hotels and restaurants in 2015, equivalent to 13 percent of the sector’s workforce.