A so-called "hard Brexit" would deal a severe blow to the majority of British cities, as they rely on the European Union for their exports more than on any other international market, new research has shown.

According to the Centre for Studies think tank, almost every British city depends on the EU in terms of international trade, with 46% of exports going to the 28-country bloc, compared with 15% to the US and 4% to China.

The think tank added the findings highlighted how important the trade relationship with the EU is, with data from 2014 showing 61 out of 62 places the think tank defines as cities sending more goods to the continent than anywhere else in the world.

Hull was the notable exception in the report, with 46% of exports from the Yorkshire city going to the US, compared with a third going to the EU, largely because of the city's sales of drugs and pharmaceuticals.

According to the report, UK cities account for 62% of exports and 60% of jobs in Britain, and that's despite covering just 8% of land in Britain. The cities' reliance on the EU for exports puts further pressure on the Government to secure a satisfying trade deal, after Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed earlier this month that Britain will leave the single market.

"Securing the best possible EU trade deal will be critical for the prosperity of cities across Britain, and should be the Government's top priority as we prepare to leave the single market and potentially the customs union," said Centre for Studies chief executive, Alexandra Jones.

"While it's right to be ambitious about increasing exports to countries such as the US and China, the outcome of EU trade negotiations will have a much bigger impact on places and people up and down the country."

Prominent Brexiteers have argued that leaving the single market would enable Britain to pursue trade deals with faster growing markets, while simultaneously free the UK economy from the so-called red tape imposed by Brussels.

However, the Centre for Studies warned exports to other markets would have to "increase dramatically" to make up for the likely decline in international trade resulting from leaving the 28-country union.

The report urged the Government to seek broad-ranging trade agreements, covering a wide spectrum of industries, and noted 35 out of the 62 cities surveyed had less than 20% of their exports concentrated in the same sector.

However, cities such as Sunderland, which are heavily reliant on a particular sector, could find it harder to fill the gap generated by the lack of exports to the EU.

Exeter was the most reliant city on the EU for trade, with 70% of exports going to the continent, while Plymouth, Bristol, Mansfield, Cardiff and Aberdeen all send approximately 60% of their goods and services to the bloc.

At the other end of the scale, only a quarter of exports from Derby goes to the EU, with 22% going to the US.