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Higher transport costs, tariffs and increased red tape mean the BRIC nations are not a substitute for the European Union in the event of a Brexit, ParcelHero has warned.

The international courier criticised the idea put forward by some in favour of a Brexit that UK businesses could improve trade with so-called BRIC nations - Brazil, Russia, India and China - in place of the EU.

The report claims that BRIC nations would not match the economic benefits of the European Union even if they continued to growth at a rate seen in previous years.

Head of consumer research at ParcelHero, David Jinks, said: "The argument sometimes deployed by those who want out of the EU is that leaving would, somehow, encourage British manufacturers to concentrate on exporting to the likes of the so-called BRIC nations. But how much would it cost UK businesses to turn their attentions beyond the EU to these new markets, and how competitive would UK products be?"

The company estimates that trading with countries outside of the EU costs the average company around £163,000 a year more than with EU countries.

The report warns that products shipped from outside the EU are typically between 20% and 30% more expensive. This is because there would be an average 5%-9% added to the price of an item in duties, plus VAT of 20% (only reclaimable in you are VAT registered), plus increased transport costs: BRIC nations are a less competitive market for international couriers. Internet shoppers would also be likely to pay ‘customs clearance’ charges on their goods from courier companies: typically around £15.

Mr Jinks added: "The combined total for the BRIC nations is less than ParcelHero’s shipments to the Republic of Ireland (a member of the EU) alone (6%). That’s a vanishingly small base for building a whole export policy on."