Last reviewed 14 July 2021

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has issued its latest monthly trade bulletin showing that total exports of goods, excluding precious metals, increased by £1.3 billion (4.9%) in May 2021, driven by a £1.0 billion (8.0%) increase in exports to EU countries.

However, total imports of goods, excluding precious metals, fell by £0.5 billion (1.4%) because of a £0.7 billion (3.4%) fall in imports from non-EU countries, which offset a slight increase of £0.1 billion (0.8%) to EU Member States.

The bulletin, available at www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/balanceofpayments/bulletins/uktrade/may2021, shows that the overall trade deficit narrowed in the three months to May 2021, but the UK’s trade surplus in services also fell in the same time period. 

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Head of Trade Policy, William Bain, welcomed the latest figures but pointed out that, when comparing the 12 months up to May 2018 against the same period to May 2021, there has been a 13% fall in exports and imports from the EU to the UK. 

“The longer-term picture from this May compared with three years ago shows the effects the severe headwinds of the pandemic, rising raw material and shipping costs, and ongoing Brexit red tape are having on the ability of UK businesses to trade with EU customers,” he warned.

The overall climate remains fragile, Mr Bain concluded.