UK exports to EU fall to lowest recorded level as imports rise, according to trade data

Fri 1 Jul 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

UK exports to the EU have fallen to their lowest level since 2011, according to freshly published European data.

Information released by Eurostat, the EU’s official statistics office, showed that the EU imports from the UK fell by 16.4% over a two year period - between January 2020 and December 2021.

Eurostat’s data is a compilation of data from the national statistical authorities of EU states.

EU imports from other non-EU countries rose by nearly a third (30.1%) in the same timeframe.

‘Get Brexit done’

EU vice-commissioner Maros Sefovic cited the Eurostat data in his speech yesterday (Thursday 30 June) calling on the UK to work with them to “get Brexit done”, as reported by the IOE&IT Daily Update yesterday.

“Brexit has increased rather than decreased red tape. Trade is no longer as frictionless and dynamic as before, for both goods and services,” he said at the Bloomberg conference on EU/UK relations in London.

Trade balance

The news comes as the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that the UK trade deficit – the difference between goods and services imported and exported – rose to its highest level since records began in 1997.

Expert commentators view a trade deficit as being not inherently bad or good. A large trade deficit can be a sign of a healthy, competitive economy, though Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey cited this as one of the possible factors in continued high inflation, according to the BBC.

The gap rose by £51.7bn in the first three months of 2022: a much higher number than expected by economists, as reported in The Times.

Fuel issues

The gap was fuelled by a surge in imports and a slump in exports, the ONS blaming pricey imports of oil and other energy sources as the culprit.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at economic research firm Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the increase in energy costs was the main cause of the UK’s difficulties, according to the FT.

‘Treat with caution’

The UK statistics body warned, however, that these numbers were subject to higher-than-normal levels of uncertainty, citing changes in methodology.

Paul Dales, chief economist at economic research consultancy Capital Economics, said that at the start of 2022, the ONS “started to measure imports between the UK and the EU in a slightly different way”. This resulted in a “large step-change upwards”, he said, adding that the figures were “really hard to interpret”.