UK trade: July 2021

Total value of UK exports and imports of goods and services in current prices, chained volume measures and implied deflators.

This is not the latest release. View latest release

Cyswllt:
Email Hannah Donnarumma

Dyddiad y datganiad:
10 September 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
13 October 2021

1. Main points

  • Total exports of goods, excluding precious metals, fell by £0.3 billion (1.0%) in July 2021 because of a £0.9 billion (6.5%) fall in exports to the EU; while exports to non-EU countries increased by £0.7 billion (5.0%).
  • Total imports of goods, excluding precious metals, fell by £0.1 billion (0.3%) in July 2021; this was entirely driven by a £0.1 billion (0.5%) fall in imports from EU countries while imports from non-EU countries remained flat.
  • Falling monthly exports of goods from EU countries in July 2021 were driven by medicinal and pharmaceutical products following an increase in June 2021, while increases with non-EU countries were driven by oil.
  • Falling imports of goods from EU countries were driven by slight falls in miscellaneous manufactures, particularly clothing and footwear.
  • Total imports of goods, excluding precious metals, increased by £6.3 billion (5.8%) in the three months to July 2021; while exports increased by a lesser £4.5 billion (5.7%).
  • The trade in services surplus increased by £0.4 billion to £28.5 billion in the three months to July 2021.
  • The total trade deficit, excluding precious metals, widened by £1.5 billion to £4.9 billion in the three months to July 2021.

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Please note that all trade figures are excluding non-monetary gold and other precious metals unless otherwise stated

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3. Monthly trade analysis

Total exports of goods fell in July 2021, driven by falls to EU countries. Exports of chemicals to the EU fell by £1.1 billion (30.9%) in July 2021 because of a £0.7 billion fall in medicinal and pharmaceutical products. The falls in chemical exports were mainly to Belgium and Ireland. Falls in chemical exports to Belgium can be attributed to coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination components, which increased significantly in June 2021 (Figure 2).

Growing numbers of people were asked by the NHS Test and Trace app to self-isolate in July which led to staff shortages across all industries. Self-isolation, coupled with loss of EU drivers in the workforce after Brexit, has caused a significant shortage of HGV drivers potentially attributing to falling exports.

Exports of goods to non-EU countries increased by £0.7 billion in July 2021 because of a £0.5 billion increase in fuels (mainly oil) and £0.4 billion increase in machinery and transport equipment. The increase in fuel exports reflects an increase in transportation globally.

Figure 2: Falling exports of goods to EU countries drove the fall in total exports of goods in July 2021

EU and non-EU goods exports by commodity July 2019 to July 2021

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Total imports of goods fell in July 2021, driven by falling imports from EU countries. Imports of miscellaneous manufactures, machinery and transport equipment and food and live animals all fell slightly in July 2021 (Figure 3). Although there have been anecdotal reports of firms, particularly in the food sector, struggling with imports and restaurants having to close temporarily, there was not a notable fall in imports of food and live animals in July 2021. These difficulties may become more evident when the August data become available.

Imports of goods from non-EU countries remained flat in July 2021. Imports of fuels and chemicals increased which was offset by falls in machinery and transport equipment, material manufactures and miscellaneous manufactures. Imports of fuels from non-EU countries increased by £0.6 billion in July 2021. Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and social distancing rules came to an end in England on 19 July 2021 and venues returned to operating at full capacity. Travel restrictions were removed and the volume of all motor vehicle traffic on 26 July 2021 was at 98% of the level seen in the first week of February 2020.

Figure 3: Imports of goods from EU countries fell in July 2021, while imports from non-EU countries remained flat

EU and non-EU goods imports by commodity, July 2019 to July 2021

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4. Total trade, three-monthly and annual movements

The total trade deficit widened by £1.5 billion to £4.9 billion in the three months to July 2021 (Figure 5). Imports increased by £6.0 billion to £151.4 billion and exports increased by £4.5 billion to £146.6 billion.

Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade deficit, excluding unspecified goods, widened by £3.3 billion to £5.9 billion in the three months to July 2021. Imports increased by £5.5 billion to £145.9 billion and exports increased by £2.1 billion to £139.9 billion.

In the three months to July 2021, the trade in services surplus increased by £0.4 billion to £28.5 billion. Imports fell by £0.3 billion and exports remained flat.

Imports and exports of goods rose significantly in July 2021 when compared with July 2020 (Table 2). However, 2020 data were strongly impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, so we also provide comparisons to 2018, when trade was not impacted by coronavirus or the end of the transition period. Imports and exports of goods fell in July 2021 when compared with July 2018.

Exports and imports of goods increased in the three months to July 2021 when compared with the same period in 2020 but fell when compared with the same period in 2018.

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5. Explore UK trade in goods country-by-commodity data for 2020

Explore the 2020 trade in goods data using our interactive tools. Our data breaks down UK trade in goods with 234 countries by 125 commodities.

Use our map to get a better understanding of what goods the UK traded with a country. Select a country by hovering over it or using the drop-down menu.

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Notes:
  1. For more information about our methods and how we compile these statistics, please see Trade in goods, country-by-commodity experimental data: 2011 to 2016. Users should note that the data published alongside this release are official statistics and no longer experimental.

  2. These data are our best estimate of these bilateral UK trade flows. Users should note that alternative estimates are available, in some cases, through the statistical agencies for bilateral countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade.

  3. This interactive map denotes country boundaries in accordance with international statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB) and does not represent the UK policy on disputed territories.

You can also explore the 2020 trade in goods data by commodity, for example, car exports to the EU and UK tea or coffee imports.

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Select a commodity from the drop-down menu or click through the levels to explore the data.

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Notes:
  1. For more information about our methods and how we compile these statistics, please see Trade in goods, country-by-commodity experimental data: 2011 to 2016. Users should note that the data published alongside this release are no longer experimental.

  2. These data are our best estimate of these bilateral UK trade flows. Users should note that alternative estimates are available, in some cases, via the statistical agencies for bilateral countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade.

  3. This interactive map denotes country boundaries in accordance with international statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB) and does not represent the UK policy on disputed territories.

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6. Revisions

In accordance with the National Accounts Revisions Policy, the data in this release have not been revised and only include new data for July 2021.

Annual National Accounts 2021

Each year, we produce an annual update to the UK National Accounts in the Blue Book and Pink Book and the associated releases. Blue Book and Pink Book 2021 consistent datasets will be published on 30 September 2021 as part of the Quarterly National Accounts and Balance of Payments.

The next monthly publication on 13 October 2021 will incorporate revisions consistent with Blue Book 2021, where the reference year and last base year for all chained volume measure series will be updated to 2019.  

HMRC unscheduled correction

Following the publication of the April 2021 release an error was identified in the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Overseas Trade data used to compile the Office for National Statistics (ONS) UK Trade statistics. More information on this data error can be found in HMRC’s correction note.

Revisions for the period January 2020 to February 2021 were published in our June 2021 release on 9 July 2021. This revision took place outside of the usual National Accounts revisions period in order to ensure ONS trade figures reflect the most up-to-date position. As this revision took place outside of the usual revisions period, gross domestic product (GDP) were not open for revisions and therefore the GDP first quarterly estimate does not include the revised 2020 and Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2021 Trade data. These revisions will be incorporated in September Quarterly National Accounts.

Revisions for pre-2020 will be incorporated in the annual Blue Book publication in October 2022. We intend to publish a short article explaining these pre-2020 revisions and providing high level indicative estimates to provide insight for our users. This article will be published in line with the HMRC publication of these revisions.

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7. UK trade data

UK trade: goods and services publication tables
Dataset | Released 10 September 2021
Monthly data on the UK’s trade in goods and services, including trade inside and outside the EU.

UK trade time series
Dataset MRET | Released 10 September 2021
Monthly value of UK exports and imports of goods and services by current price, chained volume measures (CVMs) and implied deflators (IDEFs).

UK trade in goods by classification of product by activity time series
Dataset | Released 16 June 2021
Quarterly and annual time series of the value of UK imports and exports of goods grouped by product. Goods are attributed to the activity of which they are the principal products.

Other related trade data
Web page | Released 10 September 2021
Other UK trade data related to this publication. These include trade in goods for all countries with the UK, monthly export and import country-by-commodity trade in goods data, and revisions triangles for monthly trade data.

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8. Glossary

Chained volume measures (CVMs)

Chained volume measures (CVMs) estimates are a “real” measure in that it has had the effect of inflation removed to measure the change in volume between consecutive periods, fixing the prices of goods and services in one period (the base year).

Current price measures (CPs)

These estimates measure the actual price paid for goods or services and are not adjusted for inflation. Unless otherwise stated, all current price data are provided in £ million and are seasonally adjusted.

Inflation

Inflation is the change in the average price level of goods and services over a period of time.

Implied deflators (IDEFs)

An implied deflator (IDEF) shows the implied change in average prices for the respective components of the trade balance, for example, the IDEF for imports will show the average price movement for imports.

Precious metals and non-monetary gold

Precious metals include precious metals, silver, platinum and palladium, and it forms part of the commodity group “unspecified goods”. Non-monetary gold comprises the majority of this group and is the technical term for gold bullion not owned by central banks.

Trade balance

The trade balance is the difference between exports and imports or exports minus imports. When the value of exports is greater than the value of imports, the trade balance is in surplus. When the value of imports is greater than the value of exports, the trade balance is in deficit. The balance is sometimes referred to as “net exports”.

A full Glossary of economic terms is available.

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9. Measuring the data

Coronavirus data impacts

Because of the challenges of data collection during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have experienced challenges around the level of survey and data returns for this trade release.

Data sources

Data from the quarterly International Trade in Services (ITIS) Survey make up over 50% of trade in services data. Because of the coronavirus, many businesses have moved to working from home or suspended trade, causing a lower survey response than usual. View the UK trade QMI for more detail.

Data from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) are the main source for travel services, making up around 8% of total trade. Following suspension of the survey in 2020 the IPS has now partially resumed. We continue to use the statistical model to produce our regular travel estimates and, for our quarter 1 (January to March) 2021 dataset onwards, will use the IPS deliveries to inform these modelled estimates. We will review this decision after deliveries of IPS data fully resume. View the UK trade QMI for more detail.

Data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) make up over 90% of trade in goods value and are the main source. We have worked closely with HMRC to prepare for the change in collection of customs data, which occurred at the end of the EU exit transition period. View further information in Impact of EU exit on the collection and compilation of UK trade statistics.

In line with international standards, our headline trade statistics contain the UK's exports and imports of non-monetary gold. View more information about the ONS's recording of non-monetary gold. Unless otherwise specified, data within this bulletin are in current prices. This means they have not been adjusted to remove the effects of inflation.

Method

Trade is measured through both exports and imports of goods and services. Data are supplied by over 30 sources including several administrative sources, with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) being the largest for trade in goods.

View more detailed information about the methods used to produce UK trade statistics on the UK trade methodology web pages. More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the UK trade QMI.

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10. Strengths and limitations

National Statistics designation status

The UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade on 14 November 2014. We have now responded to all of the specific requirements of the reassessment of UK trade and, as part of our engagement with the Office for Statistics Regulation team, we are sharing our continuous improvement and development plans to support UK trade statistics regaining National Statistics status. We welcome feedback on our new trade statistics, developments and future plans by email to trade@ons.gov.uk.

Trade asymmetries

Asymmetries can be caused by a range of conceptual and measurement variations between the estimation practices of different countries. Statistical agencies are likely to have different source data, estimation methods, and methodological, geographical and definitional differences. More information on trade in goods asymmetries is published by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), while analysis on trade in services asymmetries is published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the UK trade QMI.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Hannah Donnarumma
trade@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 (0)1329 447648