Brexit and the UK: Key trade figures

Frankfurt
By James Barbour

25 July 2016

In the light of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, James Barbour examines the UK’s trade relationships with the EU and the rest of the world.

Much has been made of the need for the UK to become more global in its approach to trade following the result of the EU referendum. Indeed, a new post has been created in the Government, the Secretary of State for International Trade.

In this article, I look at the recent UK goods’ export and import statistics that were published by HM Revenue and Customs for May 2016 on 9 July (therefore, pre EU referendum) below. These statistics and the various assumptions and caveats can be found on the HM Revenue and Customs website.

It should be noted that:

  • (i) UK exports are determined on the basis of the country of destination, i.e. the country of ultimate destination. This is the final country to which the goods are being exported from the UK.

  • (ii) The UK imports and arrivals country data are determined on the basis of the country of dispatch, i.e. the country from which the goods were originally dispatched to the UK. This is not necessarily the country of origin or manufacture; neither is it necessarily the last country from which the goods were shipped to the UK.

This article sheds light on the following questions:

  • What countries account for most of the UK’s exported goods?
  • What countries account for most of the UK imported goods?
  • What categories of goods make up the most of the UK’s exports?
  • What categories of goods make up most of the UK’s imports?

1. UK Balance of Trade

Total Value of Trade Exports and Imports (EU and non-EU)

  • Exports (May 2016) - £23.4b. This is comprised of Non-EU £12.1b and EU £11.3b  
  • Imports (May 2016) - £36.1b. This is comprised of Non-EU £17.5b and EU £18.6b

The UK was therefore a net importer of goods during May to the tune of £12.7b.

2. What countries account for most of the UK’s exported goods?

Firstly, the top 25 destinations for UK exports in 2016 (up till the end of May) were as follows:

 

Country

Exports 2016

Jan – May (Inclusive)

£ billions

Exports 2015

Jan – May (Inclusive)

£ billions

1

US

18.21

18.88

2

Germany

13.03

13.05

3

France

7.78

7.52

4

Netherlands

7.34

7.34

5

Ireland

6.48

6.67

6

China

5.31

7.07

7

Switzerland

4.79

9.16

8

Belgium

4.64

4.77

9

Italy

3.84

3.55

10

Spain

3.77

3.63

11

Hong Kong

3.15

2.44

12

UAE

2.41

2.98

13

Saudi Arabia

1.93

2.28

14

Sweden

1.88

1.89

15

Japan

1.87

1.78

16

Singapore

1.77

1.67

17

Canada

1.77

1.63

18

Poland

1.59

1.55

19

Turkey

1.58

1.44

20

South Korea

1.57

1.97

21

Australia

1.54

1.46

22

India

1.39

1.76

23

Low Value Trade

1.33

1.25

24

Russia

1.13

1.03

25

Norway

1.11

1.38

3. What countries account for most of the UK’s imported goods?

 

Country

Imports 2016

Jan – May (Inclusive)

£ billions

Imports 2015

Jan – May (Inclusive)

£ billions

1

Germany

25.58

25.39

2

US

15.15

14.75

3

China

14.56

14.04

4

Netherlands

13.38

13.30

5

France

9.96

10.07

6

Switzerland

8.96

3.78

7

Belgium

8.81

8.06

8

Spain

6.74

5.85

9

Italy

6.65

6.49

10

Ireland

4.81

4.84

11

Norway

4.65

5.72

12

Canada

4.32

4.30

13

Turkey

4.14

3.27

14

Japan

4.06

2.97

15

Poland

3.46

3.32

16

Hong Kong

3.24

2.52

17

India

2.57

2.63

18

Sweden

2.48

2.89

19

South Africa

2.44

1.77

20

Australia

2.34

0.82

21

Czech Republic

2.23

1.98

22

South Korea

2.10

2.07

23

Vietnam

1.55

1.15

24

Denmark

1.52

1.45

25

Russia

1.47

2.13

On the imports side, the UK also imports a considerable amount from the EU. Seven out of the top 10 countries shown are members of the EU. Therefore, it is also very much in several EU member states’ interests to negotiate a trade deal with the UK. Interestingly, the UK also imports a large amount of goods from the US which should help in negotiating a future trade deal.

4. Net UK balance of trade positions – selected EU Member States

 

Country

Net Trade Positon
for the Period 1 Jan to 31 May   2016

£ billions

Net Trade Position for the Period   1 Jan to 31 May 2015

£ billions

1

Germany

-12.55

-12.34

2

France

-2.18

-2.55

3

Netherlands

-6.04

-5.96

4

Belgium

-4.17

3.29

5

Spain

-2.97

-2.22

6

Italy

-2.81

-2.94

7

Ireland

-1.67

-1.83

8

Poland

-1.87

-1.77

9

Sweden

-0.60

-1.00

For 2016, the UK is a net importer from each of these EU member states.

5. What do we export to the EU?

The top 20 export categories in 2016 (Jan to May inclusive statistical values) were as follows: (£1000)

1

Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling-stock, and parts and accessories   thereof

7,453,368

2

Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof

6,460,051

3

Waxes

4,900,539

4

Pharmaceutical products

4,486,124

5

Electrical  machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers,   television image and sound recorders, and parts and accessories of such   articles

3,886,259

6

Aircraft, spacecraft, and parts thereof

3,051,796

7

Plastics and plastic products

2,310,006

8

Instruments and apparatus; parts and accessories thereof

2,071,262

9

Organic chemicals

1,776,668

10

Miscellaneous chemical products

1,167,456

11

Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, precious metal, and   articles thereof; imitation jewellery; coin

1,029,655

12

Essential oils and resinoids; perfumery, cosmetic or toilet preparations

994,037

13

Beverages, spirits and vinegar

977,776

14

Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, not knitted or crocheted

950,963

15

Iron and steel

806,611

16

Articles of iron or steel

771,367

17

Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted

735,025

18

Tanning or dyeing extracts; tannins and their derivatives; dyes, pigments and other colouring matter; paints and varnishes; putty and other mastics; inks

86,136

19

Paper and paperboard; articles of paper pulp, paper or paperboard

604,843

20

Footwear, gaiters and the like, parts of such articles

557,643

6. What do we export to non-EU countries?

The top 20 export categories in 2016 (Jan to May inclusive statistical values) were as follows: (£1000)

1

Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof

11,116,172            

2

Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling-stock, and parts and accessories   thereof

7,803,422

3

Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, precious metals, metals   clad with precious metal, and articles thereof; imitation jewellery; coin

6,698,840

4

Pharmaceutical products          

5,044,798

5

Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers,   television image and sound recorders, and parts and accessories of such   articles

3,850,042

6

Aircraft, spacecraft, and parts thereof

3,341,755

7

Optical, photographic, cinematographic, measuring, checking, precision, medical or   surgical instruments and apparatus; parts and accessories thereof  

3,008,860

8

Works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques    

2,405,196

9

Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; bituminous   substances; mineral waxes

1,985,136

10

Organic chemicals

1,736,265

11

Beverages, spirits and vinegar

1,566,994

12

Other products

1,420,135

13

Plastics and plastic products

1,082,804

14

Miscellaneous chemical products

890,519

15

Articles of iron or steel

838,719

16

Iron and steel

734,700

17

Furniture; medical and surgical furniture; bedding, mattresses, mattress supports, cushions   and similar stuffed furnishings; lamps and lighting fittings, not elsewhere   specified; illuminated signs, illuminated name-plates and the like;   prefabricated buildings

554,115

18

Books, newspapers, pictures and other products of the printing industry;   manuscripts, typescripts and plans

522,260

19

Arms and ammunition; parts and accessories thereof

381,751

20

Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, not knitted or crocheted

367,182

7. What do we import from the EU?

The top 20 import categories in 2016 (Jan to May inclusive statistical values) were as follows: (£1000)

1

Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling-stock, and parts and accessories thereof

19,727,802

2

Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof

11,146,480

3

Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers,   television image and sound recorders, and parts and accessories of such   articles  

7,904,248

4

Pharmaceutical products

7,167,578

5

Plastics and plastic products

3,498,075

6

Optical, photographic, cinematographic, measuring, checking, precision, medical or   surgical instruments and apparatus; parts and accessories thereof

2,769,151

7

Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; bituminous   substances; mineral waxes

2,727,705

8

Organic chemicals

1,673,534

9

Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, precious metals, metals   clad with precious metal, and articles thereof; imitation jewellery; coin

1,673,347

10

Paper and paperboard; articles of paper pulp, paper or paperboard

1,630,456

11

Beverages, spirits and vinegar

1,597,003

12

Furniture; medical and surgical furniture; bedding, mattresses, mattress supports,   cushions and similar stuffed furnishings; lamps and lighting fittings, not   elsewhere specified; illuminated signs, illuminated name-plates and the like;   prefabricated buildings

1,432,119

13

Aircraft, spacecraft, and parts thereof

1,392,255

14

Articles of iron or steel

1,331,655

15

Meat and edible meat offal

1,254,321

16

Essential oils and resinoids; perfumery, cosmetic or toilet preparations

1,160,012

17

Iron and steel

1,136,148

18

Miscellaneous chemical products

1,113,300

19

Wood and articles of wood; wood charcoal

1,100,421

20

Edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers

1,059,782

8. What do we import from non-EU countries?

The top 20 import categories in 2016 (Jan to May inclusive statistical values) were as follows: (£1000)

1

Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, precious metals, metals  clad with precious metal, and articles thereof; imitation jewellery; coin

17,687,149

2

Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof

11,430,241

3

Electrical  machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers,  television image and sound recorders, and parts and accessories of such  articles

8,234,381

4

Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; bituminous  substances; mineral waxes

7,247,568

5

Aircraft, spacecraft, and parts thereof

3,893,780

6

Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling-stock, and parts and accessories  thereof

3,730,940

7

Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, not knitted or crocheted

2,686,820

8

Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted

2,619,799

9

Pharmaceutical products

2,596,956

10

Optical, photographic, cinematographic, measuring, checking, precision, medical or  surgical instruments and apparatus; parts and accessories thereof Paper and  paperboard; articles of paper pulp, paper or paperboard

2,461,459

11

Furniture;medical and surgical furniture; bedding, mattresses, mattress supports,  cushions and similar stuffed furnishings; lamps and lighting fittings, not  elsewhere specified; illuminated signs, illuminated name-plates and the like;  prefabricated buildings

1,960,975

12

Plastics and plastic products

1,577,657

13

Other products

1,351,968

14

Works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques

1,256,140

15

Articles of iron and steel

1,196,904

16

Footwear, gaiters and the like, parts of such articles

1,166,896

17

Edible fruit and nuts; peel of citrus fruits or melons

1,098,632

18

Toys, games and sports requisites; parts and accessories thereof

1,025,854

19

Pharmaceutical products

914,169

20

Wood and articles of wood; wood charcoal

879,126

Report points to weaker economy

This article mainly focuses on the UK’s trade figures for May. A report issued by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply on 22 July indicates that the UK economy has contracted at the fastest rate since early 2009. This highlights the weak performance of the UK economy in July. The level of services activity and new orders both suffered sharp falls. Find out more.

Brexit Insights: Share your views

We are looking for CAs to contribute their views and analysis on Brexit as part of our new Brexit Insights series, to help shape the future of business and accountancy in the UK.

Get in touch with the ICAS Brexit team if you would like to be involved.

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