Commenting on the ONS Trade data for July, Head of Trade Policy William Bain said:

“Exports to the EU fell in July, largely driven by falls in medicinal and pharmaceutical sales. Although there was evidence of an increase in exports to the EU in the second quarter of the year compared with the first, the most striking comparisons are with three years ago, before pandemic and Brexit factors took hold.

“This provides a less favourable comparison, with EU imports £3bn lower and exports to the EU £1.7bn lower in July 2021 than in July 2018.

“The data also points to the effects labour shortages, particularly among HGV drivers, are having on exports. We will be keeping a close eye on the next set of data, in October, to assess the impact this is having on food imports.

“Overall, the figures remain concerning. Taken in conjunction with German trade data from earlier this week, the UK is clearly doing less trade with the EU than 3 years ago. SMEs and other businesses will want to see steps being taken by the UK Government and the EU to help improve this situation in the coming months.”

Key Statistics

  • The trade deficit rose to £4.9bn in the 3 months to July 2021 (£5.9bn ex-inflationary effects)
  • The surplus in services trade rose by a further £400m in same period
  • Exports fell by 1% in July driven largely by a fall in EU exports of 6.5% (mainly in medicinal and pharmaceutical products)
  • Imports fell by 0.3% in July as EU imports declined by 0.5% (mainly clothing and footwear)
  • Exports in the 3 months to July 2021 compared with the 3 months to April 2021 were up by 5.7% with EU exports up by 10.5%
  • On the balance of UK trade in goods there has been a 9.4% reduction in the balance on exports and a 3.9% reduction in the balance on imports since July 2018 (last stable period before pandemic and Brexit factors)
  • Imports from the EU were around £3bn lower in July 2021 compared with July 2018
  • Exports to the EU are running £1.7bn below where they were 3 years ago

The full ONS Trade data release can be found here.