LONDON: Amid warnings of a ‘Mad Max’ economy post-Brexit, and gestures toward China from the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, growing exports to China suggests that the UK will continue to pursue this trend – yet the story is not as rosy as it would seem.

Following May’s bridge-building trip to China last month, the PM noted what the government hoped would be “huge trade opportunities in China that we want to help British businesses take advantage of.”

The good news is that exports have increased by 60% since 2010; by 2020, China is expected to be one of the UK’s foreign direct investors.

Businesses across the UK have been urged by central government to look east. In Manchester, a direct flight between the city’s Airport and China has seen exports from the area alone boom to £1.3bn.

"A vast and rapidly expanding market for everything from cheese to gin, and from cars to clothing, has resulted in British exports to China increasing by 50 per cent in 2016 alone”, said Paul Stowers, North West regional director for the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Last year, UK food and drink exports to China grew by 28 percent to £564.4 million (US$783.6 million), according to figures released last week by Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), China Daily reported. Only the United States consume more UK food and drink.

But amid the positivity from Whitehall, the reality of the UK’s relationship to the continent that it’s departing stands in stark contrast. According to government figures, total trade with the EU continues to dwarf that of China, its second-largest trading partner after the US.

It will also take a long time for the relationship to balance out. In 2016, the UK imported £42.3bn worth of Chinese goods. Meanwhile, UK exports to China equalled just £16.8 billion – a deficit of £25.4 bn.

Sourced from Telegraph, Manchester Evening News, China Daily, UK Parliament; additional content by WARC staff