UK trade: March 2022

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

This is the latest release. View previous releases

12 May 2022

Notice:

In January 2022, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) implemented a data collection change affecting data on imports from the EU to Great Britain.

We advise caution when interpreting 2022 EU imports compared with other periods as the impacts of these changes are still being investigated.

More information can be found in Section 2: Changes affecting UK trade statistics.

Cyswllt:
Email Hannah Donnarumma

Dyddiad y datganiad:
12 May 2022

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
13 June 2022

1. Main points

  • Total imports of goods, excluding precious metals, increased by £4.4 billion (9.3%) in March 2022, because of a £2.4 billion (9.9%) rise in imports from non-EU countries while imports from EU countries rose by £2.0 billion (8.6%).

  • Total exports of goods, excluding precious metals, increased by £0.6 billion (2.1%) in March 2022, driven by a £0.4 billion (2.6%) increase in exports to non-EU countries while exports to EU countries increased by £0.3 billion (1.7%).

  • The total trade in goods and services deficit, excluding precious metals, widened by £14.9 billion to £25.2 billion in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2022, reaching the largest deficit since records began in 1997.

  • The trade in goods deficit, excluding precious metals, widened by £19.6 billion to £62.2 billion in Quarter 1 2022, as imports of goods increased by £19.3 billion (15.2%) and exports decreased by £0.3 billion (0.3%).

  • Total imports of goods have increased substantially in Quarter 1 2022 and are an important contributor to UK GDP statistics this quarter, however, there are some additional levels of uncertainty on these trade flows because of recent data collection changes.

  • The trade in services surplus increased by £4.7 billion in Quarter 1 2022 to £37.0 billion.

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Please note that all trade figures exclude non-monetary gold and other precious metals unless otherwise stated. This is because movements in non-monetary gold, an important component of precious metals, can be large and highly volatile, distorting underlying trends in goods exports and imports.

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2. Changes affecting UK trade statistics

EU imports

In January 2022, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) implemented a data collection change affecting data on imports from the EU to Great Britain. As a result, our EU to Great Britain import statistics from January 2022 are not directly comparable with previous months. HMRC is continuing to assess any impacts of this change and drivers to the current import trends. 

Ongoing analysis confirms strong imports of machinery and transport equipment from the EU in 2022, reflecting a recovery following lower levels throughout much of 2021. Until HMRC investigations are complete, there remains uncertainty around data being the only contributing factor.

The move from the Intrastat survey to custom declarations for Great Britain imports marks an improvement in coverage, as trade that previously fell below the Intrastat value threshold (around 7% of trade by value) is included, while previously this was estimated. Additionally, customs declarations include trade movements conducted by non-Value Added Tax (VAT)-registered businesses and private individuals, which was not previously captured or estimated. We need to explore the possibility of a data time series break because of this collection change.

We advise caution when interpreting 2022 EU imports compared with other periods as the impacts of these changes are still being investigated.

EU exports

An operational change implemented by HMRC in January 2022 resulted in a break in the data time series for UK exports to the EU. Although this change does not affect data for March and future months, caution should be taken when interpreting Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2022 data or any periods that include January 2022 data.

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4. Monthly commodity analysis

Total imports of goods rose by £4.4 billion (9.3%) in March 2022, with imports from EU countries increasing by £2.0 billion (8.6%) and imports from non-EU countries increasing by £2.4 billion (9.9%).

Imports of machinery and transport equipment from the EU increased by £0.7 billion in March 2022, driven by increases in road vehicles. Imports of fuels from the EU also rose by £0.5 billion, driven by oil and natural gas.

Imports of fuels from non-EU countries increased by £1.5 billion in March 2022, primarily because of increasing natural gas imports from Norway. This increase was driven by further fuel price increases in early March, which can likely be attributed in part to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Imports of fuels from Russia fell in March for the third consecutive month, with economic sanctions being imposed from 1 March 2022 onwards.

Imports of both miscellaneous manufactures and material manufactures from non-EU countries also increased by £0.7 billion and £0.2 billion respectively in March 2022.

Figure 2: Imports of goods increased in March 2022, driven by increasing imports of fuels, and machinery and transport equipment

EU and non-EU goods imports by commodity, March 2020 to March 2022

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Notes:
  1. Caution should be taken when interpreting these data as HM Revenue and Customs changed the collection methods for EU trade from January 2022. Our blog provides more detail.
Download the data

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Total exports of goods rose by £0.6 billion (2.1%) in March 2022, because of a £0.4 billion (2.6%) increase in exports to non-EU countries and a £0.3 billion (1.7%) increase in exports to the EU.

Increases in exports to the EU were driven by increases in fuels of £1.2 billion but offset by decreases in other commodities such as machinery and transport equipment of £0.3 billion and material manufactures of £0.2 billion (Figure 3). Exports of fuels increased driven by oil and crude oil exports to the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany.

The increase in exports to non-EU countries was driven by a £0.5 billion increase in exports of fuels, which was partially offset by decreases in machinery and transport equipment of £0.3 billion.

Figure 3: Exports of goods to non-EU countries increased in March 2022, driven by increasing exports of fuels

EU and non-EU goods exports by commodity, March 2020 to March 2022

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Notes:
  1. Caution should be taken when interpreting these data as HM Revenue and Customs changed the collection methods for EU trade from January 2022. Our blog provides more detail.
Download the data

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5. Total trade, quarterly movements

Total imports of goods increased by £19.3 billion (15.2%) in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2022 when compared with Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2021, driven by increases in imports from both EU and non-EU countries. Total exports of goods decreased by £0.3 billion (0.3%) over the same period, because of decreasing exports to EU countries, while exports to non-EU countries rose slightly.

Increases in imports of several commodities from the EU occurred in Quarter 1 2022, with machinery and transport equipment being the largest at £6.1 billion. Increasing imports from non-EU countries in Quarter 1 were driven by a £4.3 billion increase in imports of fuels (Figure 4).

Exports to EU countries decreased driven by falling exports of machinery and transport equipment (£0.9 billion), offset slightly by increases in fuels and material manufactures exports in Quarter 1 2022. The slight increase in exports to non-EU countries in Quarter 1 2022 was driven by the increases in material manufactures, beverages and tobacco, and machinery and transport equipment offsetting the £0.9 billion decrease in exports of fuels.

Caution should be taken when interpreting data for exports to the EU because of the operational change implemented by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in January 2022. Although March data are not affected, caution should be taken when interpreting quarterly comparisons because of the lower value of January 2022 data.

Figure 4: Imports of machinery and transport equipment from EU countries increased in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2022 when compared with Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2021

Changes in imports and exports by goods commodity group, excluding unspecified goods, Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2022 compared with Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2021

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Notes:
  1. Caution should be taken when interpreting these data as HM Revenue and Customs changed the collection methods for EU trade from January 2022. Our blog provides more detail.
Download the data

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The total trade deficit for goods and services, excluding precious metals, widened by £14.9 billion to £25.2 billion in Quarter 1 2022, with total imports increasing by £13.9 billion to £188.9 billion and total exports decreasing by £0.9 billion to £163.8 billion (Figure 5).

The trade in goods deficit, excluding precious metals, widened by £19.6 billion to £62.2 billion in Quarter 1 2022, driven by a large increase in imports, as well as a small decrease in exports of £0.3 billion.

Early estimates suggest the trade in services surplus increased by £4.7 billion in Quarter 1 2022 to £37.0 billion driven by a £5.3 billion decrease in imports. Imports fell to £42.8 billion, while exports of services also decreased £0.7 billion to £79.8 billion in Quarter 1 2022.

Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade deficit, excluding unspecified goods, widened by £13.5 billion to £23.6 billion in Quarter 1 2022. Imports increased by £10.3 billion to £172.7 billion and exports decreased by £3.2 billion to £149.1 billion.

Imports of goods in March 2022 were £14.8 billion (40.3%) higher than March 2021 levels, while exports increased by £2.6 billion (9.7%) over the same period (Table 2). As 2021 data were strongly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and end of the EU exit transition period, we have also compared them against 2018 trade data. Compared with March 2018, imports increased by £11.2 billion (27.6%) while exports rose by £0.8 billion (2.8%).

Total imports and exports of goods increased in Quarter 1 2022 compared with Quarter 1 2021. However, exports decreased by £1.1 billion (1.3%) when compared with the same period in 2018, while imports increased by £26.8 billion (22.4%).

Notes:

1.Caution should be taken when interpreting these data as HM Revenue and Customs changed the collection method for imports from and exports to the EU as of January 2022. Our blog provides more detail.

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6. Explore UK trade in goods country-by-commodity data for 2021

Explore the 2021 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 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.

Download the data

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You can also explore the 2021 trade in goods data by commodity, such as car exports to the EU and UK tea or coffee imports.

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

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Download the data

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Download 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. These interactive charts denote country boundaries in accordance with 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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7. Revisions

In accordance with the National Accounts Revisions Policy, the data in this release have been revised from January 2022 to March 2022 for both goods and services. 

HM Revenue and Customs unscheduled correction

Following the publication of UK trade: April 2021, 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.

Revisions for the period January 2020 to February 2021 were published in our UK trade: May 2021 bulletin on 9 July 2021, taking place outside of the usual National Accounts revisions period in order to ensure the ONS trade figures reflected the most up-to-date position. Revisions for pre-2020 will be incorporated in the annual Blue Book publication in October 2022.

We have published an article providing users with an indicative estimate of the likely scale and impact of these corrections on the ONS trade statistics before their publication in the August 2022 UK trade statistics, due to be published in October 2022.

Trade in services adjustments

We are working towards the implementation of a new adjustment approach within our first estimate of quarterly trade in services to address known downward bias. Because of unforeseen delays this was not introduced on 12 May as previously advised. We will publish more detailed information on the introduction of the methodology in due course.

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8. UK trade data

UK trade: goods and services publication tables
Dataset | Released 12 May 2022
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 12 May 2022
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 March 2022
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
Dataset web page | Released 12 May 2022
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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9. Glossary

Chained volume measures (CVMs)

CVM 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 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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10. Measuring the data

Making our published spreadsheets accessible

Over the coming months, all Office for National Statistics (ONS) datasets will be reviewed to ensure they meet the accessibility standards outlined in the Government Statistical Service (GSS) guidance on releasing statistics in spreadsheets. This is to ensure that all GSS outputs meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a legal requirement set out in The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

We welcome any feedback on these changes. Share your feedback by emailing the statistical contact at the top of the page.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) data impact

Because of the challenges of data collection during the coronavirus 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. View our UK trade QMI for more detail.

Data from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) are the main source for travel services, historically making up around 8% of total imports. 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 (Jan to Mar) 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 our 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 our article 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 HMRC being the largest for trade in goods.

View more detailed information about the methods used to produce UK trade statistics on our UK trade methodology web pages.

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11. Strengths and limitations

National Statistics designation status

The UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade (PDF, 72.9KB) 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 our UK trade QMI.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

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