A new analysis of UK trade has exploded the myth that a post-pandemic downturn in exports can be blamed on Brexit.
Pro-remain commentators have used lower export figures to argue the UK would be better off in the EU.
But experts at the Centre for Brexit Policy say this ignores global problems such as a shortage of computer chips following the pandemic.
In a paper to be published this week they also warn the UK is failing to make the most of its natural resources, following a fall in North Sea oil and gas production.
Report author Phil Radford said the nature of the UK economy meant it was harder hit than others by disruption caused by Covid.
He said: “In 2019, the motor vehicle and aerospace sectors were easily our biggest goods-export industries.
They delivered a combined 20 percent of all UK goods exports in 2019.
“Yet this sectoral study shows that in the UK, these two sectors were easily the hardest hit by recent global events, including the pandemic, microchip shortages and the temporary collapse of civilian aviation. In G7 terms, this made UK trade uniquely vulnerable to global events.”
He added: “UK exports missed out on recent surges in global demand. Declining long-term investment in the North Sea meant our trade did not benefit from the energy crisis, as happened in the US and Canada.
“Meanwhile, offshoring in our pharmaceutical industry meant we failed to gain from the spike in demand for vaccines, like Germany and the US.”
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But Brexit has had a “trivial” effect on UK-EU trade, the report will say.
It contradicts claims from bodies such as the Tony Blair Foundation, which claimed in February that Britain’s trade “has been hit significantly by its departure from the single market”.
The UK exported £340 billion of goods and services to the EU last year.
Energy industry body Offshore Energies UK last month warned that 90 percent of firms involved in North Sea oil and gas were cutting investment as a result of the energy windfall tax known as the Energy Profits Levy imposed by the Treasury, which is expected to raise £40 billion over five years.
Political uncertainty and increased costs have also reduced investment, the industry says.