BUSINESSES in Gwent exported hundreds of millions of pounds' worth of goods to the EU last year, new figures reveal.

Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office warns “widespread disruption” to UK trade with the EU is likely when the country exits the single market at the end of December.

HM Revenue and Customs figures show 544 businesses registered in the Newport and Monmouthshire area, and 534 in the Gwent Valleys, exported goods to countries in the European Union in 2019.

In Newport and Monmouthshire, this outward trade was valued at £560 million – 50 per cent of the total value of exports included in the data. And in the Valleys it was higher still, at £830 million – accounting for 58 per cent of business.


The figures also show 836 businesses in Newport and Monmouthshire imported a total of £379 million of goods from the EU last year – 41 per cent of the value of all inbound trade.

In the Valleys 727 companies imported items from the bloc, accounting for £630 million, or 48 per cent of all imports.

The figures only include trade in goods, and not services.

Across the UK, companies exported £168 billion worth of goods to the EU last year, while imports amounted to £267 billion.

A recent report by the National Audit Office said there was “significant uncertainty” about whether preparations will be complete in time for the UK's departure from the single market.

It added the UK Government could have avoided some of the problems if it had been swifter to tackle issues such as the number of customs agents to help traders.

Head of the NAO Gareth Davies said: “The January 1 deadline is unlike any previous EU exit deadline – significant changes at the border will take place and government must be ready.

“Disruption is likely and government will need to respond quickly to minimise the impact, a situation made all the more challenging by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Talks between the UK and EU are continuing as negotiators try to finalise a trade deal before the end of the year.

If they fail to do so, World Trade Organisation rules would kick in, which could increase the cost of imports and exports.

A UK Government spokesman said: “We are making significant preparations to prepare for the guaranteed changes at the end of the transition period – including investing £705 million to ensure the right border infrastructure, staffing and technology is in place, providing £84 million in grants to boost the customs intermediaries sector, and implementing border controls in stages so traders have sufficient time to prepare.

“With less than two months to go, it’s vital that businesses and citizens prepare too. That’s why we’re intensifying our engagement with businesses and running a major public information campaign so they know exactly what they need to do to grasp the new opportunities available as the transition period ends.”

He added that the Government was working hard to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol – the part of the Withdrawal Agreement designed to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.