UK exports
Chancellor George Osborne wants to increased the value of UK exports to £1tn by the end of the decade (Reuters)

UK exports to China hit a £1bn monthly average for the first time ever in the three months to April as trade shifts away from the EU.

Britain's trade deficit narrowed by £600m (£706m, $934m) in April on the month before, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS), though the long term picture remains little changed over the past two years.

The UK's seasonally adjusted deficit in total trade, including both goods and services, dropped to £2.6bn in April.

"Sterling appreciated slightly in April and, probably as a result, both export and import prices fell slightly," said the ONS.

"Excluding erratic items and oil, both export and import volumes fell. The fall in the volume of trade with the other EU countries was sharper than the fall in trade with the rest of the world."

The deficit in UK goods trading, excluding oil and other erratic items, rose by £1.6bn in the three months to April.

For the first time, UK exports to China - one of the country's priority markets - averaged more than £1bn a month from between February and April. UK exports to China rose by 11% in this period.

"There has been a switch in the trade with EU countries and the rest of the world since the autumn of 2011," said the ONS.

"In that period, the deficit with the non-EU countries averaged around £15bn over a three-month period; the deficit with the rest of the EU was around £11bn. The positions are now reversed.

"The prices of exports and imports to each area have hardly changed over this period but the volume of exports to the EU has gone down since 2011 (by around 5% between the second half of 2011 and the latest three months) while they have risen to the rest of the world (an increase of 7% in export volumes between the second half of 2011 and the latest three months).

"Conversely, imports from the EU have risen slightly over this period while they have been flatter from the rest of the world."

Chancellor George Osborne has set the target value of UK exports at £1tn by the end of the decade.

Two export finance schemes, aimed at supporting foreign importers of UK goods, are being stalled by EU state aid law.