Last reviewed 21 January 2022

The UK trade figures for November 2021 have been released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and show that imports of goods, excluding precious metals, increased by £2.0 billion (4.9%) while exports of goods, excluding precious metals, decreased by £0.3 billion (1.0%).

Available at www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/balanceofpayments/bulletins/uktrade/november2021, this latest trade bulletin explains that this latter figure is caused by a fall in exports to non-EU countries while exports to EU countries remained flat.

For the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), William Bain, Head of Trade Policy, noted that the ONS did not find evidence of stockpiling of goods imports from the EU in the run-up to the introduction of the new January border controls.

“However,” he went on, “looking at the last six months, a clear picture is emerging of significantly lower EU imports to the UK than three years ago, with a smaller reduction in exports to the EU.”

As inbound border checks to Great Britain are gradually being phased in until November this year, he went on, this is something business will be paying close attention to given the potential impacts upon supply chains.

Looking more closely at the data, Mr Bain suggested that the uplift in goods imported to the UK was driven by a 4.5% rise in EU imports (mainly in chemicals, machinery and transport equipment) and a 5.2% rise in non-EU imports.

The uptick in chemicals is likely linked to increased vaccine production.

Comparing goods exports to the EU in November 2021 with the same month three years ago, the BCC notes that they were £0.6 billion lower now than then (£14.2 billion vs £13.6 billion).

Goods imports from the EU were £3.2 billion lower in November 2021 compared with November 2018 — a position which has been broadly consistent over the preceding six months.