BUSINESSES in the Essex Haven Gateway exported more than £400 million worth of goods to the EU last year, figures reveal.

The latest trade figures from HM Revenue and Customs show 1,131 businesses registered in the Essex Haven Gateway area exported goods to countries in the European Union during 2018.

Their combined sales came to £439 million – 56 per cent of the total value of exports from the area.

Sales to non-EU countries brought in £338 million over the course of the year.

It means the buying power of the 27 EU member states was worth more to Essex businesses than trade with the rest of the world.

More businesses in Essex Haven Gateway export to EU countries than to rest of the world – 1,131 compared to 872.

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.

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.

The Confederation of British Industry says a no-deal Brexit could result in an 8.4 per cent drop in the value of goods and services produced in the East of England by 2034.