UK the fastest recovering G20 economy but post-Brexit 'teething problems' slow trade output

Thu 16 Sept 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

brexit stats

The UK’s economy expanded faster than any other G20 country in the second quarter of the year as stores reopened and Covid restrictions eased.

GDP grew by 4.8% in Q2 following a 1.6% contraction at the start of the year, according to the OECD.

The next fastest growing country, Italy, was more than two percentage points behind at 2.7% growth, reports the Telegraph.

Uneven trade recovery

However, the global trade recovery from the pandemic has proved uneven and the UK is among the countries whose exports and imports have rebounded more slowly.

GTR reports the annual trade and development report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which expects global trade to bounce back in 2021 after a 5.6% drop in international goods and services trade last year.

It estimates that growth in goods and services will be 9.5% in 2021, with overall global economic growth reaching its highest in almost 50 years at 5.3%.

EU departure

The report says the UK, Africa and Middle East are “lagging” behind, with the UK’s poor performance attributed to its departure from the EU at the end of last year.

“Weaknesses mostly resulting from post-referendum uncertainties have severely disrupted trade with the European Union,” the report says.

“In early 2021, lockdown measures, together with the winding-down of a rush to stockpile products ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period in late 2020, led to a second significant collapse of trade flows in less than 12 months,” it also says.


However, ONS trade figures also show that British exports to the EU were back to above pre-Brexit levels in June, indicating that UK-EU trade was beginning to normalise.

The government said at the start of the year that trade disruption could be put down to “teething issues” as businesses on both sides of the Channel adjusted to post-Brexit rules.

Manufacturing growth

The normalisation of UK-EU trade will have been helped by the speed at which UK manufacturing rebounded after lockdown restrictions eased in the early summer.

As previously covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, UK output rose at its fastest rate for 30 years, with manufacturers struggling to keep up with demand.

According to the OECD, UK output was 4.4% lower at the end of June compared to GDP in final quarter of 2019.