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The UK left the EU single market and customs union at the end of 2020. Since then, UK trade with the EU has been governed by the Trade and Co-operation Agreement. While this allows tariff-free trade in goods between the UK and EU, trade barriers are higher than before.

Trade affected by Brexit and other factors

Analysing the impact of Brexit on UK trade is complicated by a number of issues. Other factors, such as the Covid pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine have affected trade flows. This makes it difficult to disentangle the effects of Brexit from other factors. In addition, Brexit has meant changes to the way trade data is collected. These data issues mean caution is necessary in interpreting the trade data.

Short-term trends in trade with the EU

In 2022, the UK exported £340 billion of goods and services to the EU, 42% of total UK exports. The UK imported £432 billion from the EU, 48% of total UK imports. The UK had a trade deficit of £92 billion with the EU compared to a £5 billion surplus with non-EU countries.

Total UK exports (goods and services combined) to both the EU and non-EU countries were lower than their 2019 level in both 2020 and 2021. In both cases, exports exceeded 2019 levels in 2022. These figures are in current prices so are not adjusted for inflation. This needs to be borne in mind given current high levels of inflation. Underlying trends may also have been distorted by exports of precious metals to non-EU countries.

Similarly, imports of goods and services from both EU and non-EU countries have now exceeded 2019 levels, in current prices.

Data on trade in goods is available in real terms (ie adjusted to take account of inflation) and adjusted to exclude precious metals. This data shows UK goods exports to the EU remain below 2019 levels. Imports of goods from the EU were 1.4% higher in 2022 than in 2019 but changes to data collection methods mean it is advisable to be cautious in putting too much weight on this figure.

Longer-term trends

Looking at longer term trends, the share of UK trade accounted for by the EU has fallen. Between 1999 and 2007, the EU accounted for 50-55% of UK exports. By 2022, this figure had fallen to 42%. The share of UK imports from the EU has also fallen since 1999, although by less than for exports.

The attached Excel spreadsheet (see under supporting documents) allows for easy access and presentation of detailed 2022 data on trade between the UK and individual EU member states and trade trends between 1999 and 2022.

Trade with the EU by country and region of the UK

Countries and regions of the UK differ in the proportion of their trade in goods accounted for by the EU. Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of trade with the EU. The EU also accounts for a high proportion of exports for Scotland, the North East and Wales. The EU accounts for a high proportion of imports in the South East, East and West Midlands.

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