Businesses in Lancaster and Wyre exported more than a quarter of a billion pounds worth of goods to the EU last year, figures reveal.
The latest trade figures from HM Revenue and Customs show that 521 businesses registered in the Lancaster and Wyre area exported goods to countries in the European Union during 2018.
Their combined sales came to £260 million – 53 per cent of the total value of exports from the area.
Sales to non-EU countries brought in £235 million over the course of the year.
It means the buying power of the 27 EU member states was worth 1.1 times more to local businesses than trade with the rest of the world.
The figures only include trade in goods, and not services.
More businesses in Lancaster and Wyre export to EU countries than to rest of the world – 521 compared to 416.
Across the UK, more than 120,000 companies exported £170 billion worth of goods to the EU in 2018, with more businesses exporting within the bloc than outside of it in every region of the country.
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.
He said: “By stopping Brexit, Liberal Democrats will give businesses the certainty they need and allow them to continue trading freely with our largest trading partner.”
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 warns the north west would be among the hardest hit regions in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with its economy relying on manufacturing more than any other area of the UK.
The industry body predicts a failure to strike a deal could lead to a 9.4% drop in the value of goods and services produced across the region by 2034.
This would mean an annual loss of £18 billion in today’s prices – more than double public spending on education in the region.
Important pharmaceutical and chemical industries are likely to face significantly more red tape, it said.
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.”
Lancaster and Wyre businesses also imported £226 million worth of goods from the EU bloc in 2018 – 54% of total imports.
Overall, 790 companies imported products from the EU, compared to 550 that traded with the rest of the world.