Last reviewed 19 October 2021

Total imports of goods, excluding precious metals, fell by £1.3 billion (3.1%) in August 2021, driven by a £1.2 billion (5.6%) fall in imports from non-EU countries, while imports from the EU fell slightly by £0.1 billion.

These are among the main findings of the latest trade figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and available at www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/balanceofpayments/bulletins/uktrade/august2021.

The fall in both exports and imports was due mainly to fluctuations in the markets for mechanical power generators, road vehicles and crude oil.

Reacting to the news, William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said that it was concerning that the overall trade deficit rose in the three months to August 2021.

“There are some signs that in the last three months exports to the EU have picked up somewhat”, he went on, “but are still £1.8 billion less than the same period three years ago before Brexit deadlines, the end of the transition period and the pandemic”.

Imports from the EU were £2.5 billion lower in August 2021 than three years earlier, Mr Bain has pointed out.

He highlighted labour shortages across the economy, in particular heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers as a factor in the relatively weak imports and exports performance.

However, Mr Bain continued, businesses are also becoming increasingly worried about further disruption to trading terms.

“Concerns are rising about tariffs or loss of trade facilitation measures if there is a major deterioration in EU-UK relationship over the next year”, he concluded.