BREXIT is making the cost of living crisis even worse after new figures revealed UK exports to the EU plunged by £20 billion last year, the SNP has warned.

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics which mark the first full year since leaving the EU show a 12% fall in exports between January and December last year compared to 2018.

While the pandemic has also had an impact, there was a smaller drop in exports to the rest of the world, at around £10bn or 6% compared with 2018 levels.

The decline in exports to the EU has hit key sectors, including clothing and footwear, which fell by almost 60% and vegetable exports, dropping by almost 40%.

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Food and live animal exports were also badly hit, down by almost 18%.

And for the first time since comparable records began in 1997, the UK is now spending more on importing goods from the rest of the world than it does from the EU.

Goods imported from the EU to the UK fell by around £45bn – or almost 17% – compared with 2018.

SNP Trade spokesman Drew Hendry MP hit out at the UK Government, saying: Boris Johnson’s damaging hard Brexit was imposed against Scotland’s will, and it has cost our economy billions of pounds – with plunging exports, rising costs, and lost growth.

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“It’s devastating to see the long-term damage the UK Government has recklessly inflicted through Brexit and economic mismanagement, compounding the Tory cost of living crisis.

“At a time when Tory cuts, regressive tax hikes, rising inflation and soaring energy bills are hitting families and businesses hard - Brexit is making this crisis even worse by increasing costs, raising prices, and reducing jobs, income and investment.”

He added: ”The SNP will continue to press the UK government for immediate action to mitigate Brexit and the Tory cost of living crisis but ultimately independence is the only way to keep Scotland safe and regain the benefits of EU membership, including a more prosperous economy.”

The UK Government has said it is “still too early” to draw any firm conclusions on the long-term impact of Brexit on exports, with issues such as the pandemic causing “volatility in recent statistics.”