Virus impact on UK imports and exports in April worse than expect, HMRC statistics reveal

Tue 30 Jun 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

uk exports

UK trade in goods plummeted in April across all four nations with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns “worse than expected”.

English exports and imports were particularly affected, declining by almost a third month-on-month.

One academic has told the Daily Update today (30 June) that the figures were the worst for goods trade in decades.

Professor Sangeeta Khorana, who leads research on international trade policy at Bournemouth University, said:

“The impact of the virus has been worse than expected and the UK economy registered the sharpest quarterly decline in more than 40 years.

“Statistics on the change in percentage share of trade in goods for April 2020 (compared with March 2020), shows England is the worst affected.”

The English share of UK trade declined by 2% for exports and 4% for imports.

Professor Khorana added that “the adverse effects” of the pandemic could “carry on for years, much like the 2008 financial crisis.”

Key figures

According to the HMRC figures, for the month of April 2020:

  • English exports decreased by almost a third (30%) compared to the previous month to a total of £13.2bn; imports also decreased by a third to £19.6bn.
  • Welsh exports decreased by almost two fifths (38%) to £0.8bn, with imports down a fifth (19%) to £1bn
  • Scottish exports decreased by £0.4bn (16%) to £1.9bn with imports down a fifth to £1.5bn
  • Northern Irish exports decreased by two fifths (38%) to £451m with imports down a fifth to £477m

Scotland was the only country to record a trade surplus, with exports exceeding imports by £0.4bn. England, Wales and Northern Ireland recorded deficits of £6.4bn, £0.2bn and £26m respectively.

EU trade accounted for roughly a half of Welsh and Scottish trade, while in England non-EU exports exceeded EU exports at £7.4bn compared to £5.7bn.

Automotive sector halted

The stats come just a few days after figures for UK car production in May were released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Car manufacturing output fell by a staggering 95.4% in May with only 5,314 vehicles being made – the worst May since 1946. In April only 197 units were built as factories were closed or running at reduced capacity.