UK trade: April 2022

Total value of UK exports and imports of goods and services in current prices, chained volume measures and implied deflators.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

13 June 2022

In January 2022, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) implemented a data collection change affecting data on imports from the EU to Great Britain.

We advise caution when interpreting 2022 EU imports compared with other periods as the impacts of these changes are still being investigated.

More information can be found in Section 2: Changes affecting UK trade statistics.

Contact:
Email Hannah Donnarumma

Release date:
13 June 2022

Next release:
13 July 2022

1. Main points

  • Total imports of goods, excluding precious metals, increased by £0.4 billion (0.7%) in April 2022 compared with March 2022, because of a £1.1 billion (4.2%) rise in imports from EU countries – while imports from non-EU countries fell by £0.7 billion (2.6%).

  • Total exports of goods, excluding precious metals, increased by £2.2 billion (7.4%) in April 2022 compared with March 2022, driven by a £1.2 billion (8.1%) increase in exports to EU countries – while exports to non-EU countries increased by £0.9 billion (6.5%).

  • EU exports have increased for the third consecutive month in April 2022 and are at the highest levels since records began.

  • The total trade in goods and services deficit, excluding precious metals, widened by £7.1 billion to £24.3 billion in the three months to April 2022 compared with the three months to January 2022.

  • The trade in goods deficit, excluding precious metals, widened by £10.3 billion to £61.5 billion in the three months to April 2022 compared with the three months to January 2022, as imports of goods increased by £17.6 billion (13.2%), and exports increased by £7.2 billion (8.8%).

  • Early estimates suggest that the trade in services surplus increased by £3.2 billion in the three months to April 2022 compared with the three months to January 2022, reaching £37.2 billion.

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Please note that all trade figures exclude non-monetary gold and other precious metals unless otherwise stated. This is because movements in non-monetary gold, an important component of precious metals, can be large and highly volatile, distorting underlying trends in goods exports and imports.

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2. Changes affecting UK trade statistics

EU imports

In January 2022, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) implemented a data collection change affecting data on imports from the EU to Great Britain. As a result, our EU to Great Britain import statistics from January 2022 are not directly comparable with previous months.

The move from the Intrastat survey to custom declarations data for imports to Great Britain from the EU marks an improvement in coverage, as trade that previously fell below the Intrastat value threshold (estimated at around 7% of trade by value) is now included, while previously this was estimated. Additionally, customs declarations include trade movements conducted by non-Value Added Tax (VAT)-registered businesses, private individuals, and parcel post, which was not previously captured. For the first quarter of 2022, HMRC has estimated this to be in the region of £0.5 billion a month. HMRC is investigating the scale of other aspects of the transition from the Intrastat survey to customs declarations data, by evaluating the importer population in both datasets, to assess whether they represent a time series break between 2022 and previous years.

Ongoing analysis confirms strong imports of machinery and transport equipment from the EU in 2022, reflecting a recovery following lower levels throughout much of 2021. HMRC is continuing to assess any impacts of this change and drivers of the current import trends. 

We advise caution when interpreting 2022 EU imports compared with other periods because of the change in data collection from the Intrastat survey in 2021 to customs declarations in 2022.

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4. Commodity analysis

Imports

Imports from the EU of machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals, increased by £0.8 billion and £0.6 billion, respectively, in April 2022 compared with March 2022. This increase was slightly offset by decreasing EU imports of fuels, which fell by £0.2 billion (Figure 2).

Imports of fuels from non-EU countries increased by £0.6 billion in April 2022. However, imports of fuels from Russia fell in April for the third consecutive month, reducing by £0.3 billion.

The increased imports of fuels from non-EU countries was offset by decreased imports of machinery and transport equipment of £0.7 billion and miscellaneous manufactures of £0.6 billion, driven by reduced imports of cars, electrical machinery and other manufactures from China.

Figure 2: Imports of goods increased in April 2022, driven by increasing imports of machinery and transport equipment and fuels

EU and non-EU goods imports by commodity, April 2020 to April 2022

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Notes:
  1. Caution should be taken when interpreting these data as HM Revenue and Customs changed the collection methods for EU trade from January 2022. Our blog provides more detail.
Download the data

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Exports

Increases in exports to the EU were driven by increases in machinery and transport equipment of £0.6 billion and increases in fuels of £0.5 billion (Figure 3). The increases in fuels exports were driven by exports of gas and crude oil to the Netherlands and oil to Ireland. The fuels trade values suggest that the UK has continued to import Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from non-EU countries and is increasing exports of gas to continental Europe to fill storage sites.

The increase in exports to non-EU countries was driven by a £0.9 billion increase in exports of machinery and transport equipment, primarily to United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Chemicals and material manufactures exports also increased by £0.4 billion and £0.3 billion, respectively. These increases were offset by a reduction in fuels exports of £0.7 billion, driven by reduced exports of crude oil.

Figure 3: Exports of goods increased in April 2022, driven by increasing exports of machinery and transport equipment

EU and non-EU goods exports by commodity, April 2020 to April 2022

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Notes:
  1. Caution should be taken when interpreting these data as HM Revenue and Customs changed the collection methods for EU trade from January 2022. Our blog provides more detail.
Download the data

.xlsx

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5. Total trade balances

The UK’s total trade deficit for goods and services, excluding precious metals, widened by £7.1 billion to £24.3 billion in the three months to April 2022, with total imports increasing by £14.4 billion to £194.2 billion and total exports increasing by £7.3 billion to £169.8 billion (Figure 4).

The trade in goods deficit, excluding precious metals, widened by £10.3 billion to £61.5 billion in the three months to April 2022, driven by a £17.6 billion increase in goods imports.

Early estimates suggest the trade in services surplus increased by £3.2 billion to £37.2 billion in the three months to April 2022, driven by a £3.1 billion decrease in services imports. Imports fell to £43.2 billion, while exports of services increased slightly by £0.1 billion to £80.4 billion in the three months to April 2022.

Removing the effect of inflation, the total trade deficit, excluding unspecified goods, widened by £4.8 billion to £21.4 billion in the three months to April 2022. Imports increased by £8.0 billion to £174.5 billion, and exports increased by £3.2 billion to £153.1 billion.

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6. Explore UK trade in goods country-by-commodity data for 2021

Explore the 2021 trade in goods data using our interactive tools. Our data break down UK trade in goods with 234 countries by 125 commodities.

Use our map to get a better understanding of what goods the UK traded with a country. Select a country by hovering over it or using the drop-down menu.

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Notes:
  1. For more information about our methods and how we compile these statistics, please see Trade in goods, country-by-commodity experimental data: 2011 to 2016. Users should note that the data published alongside this release are official statistics and no longer experimental.

  2. These data are our best estimate of these bilateral UK trade flows. Users should note that alternative estimates are available, in some cases, through the statistical agencies for bilateral countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade.

  3. This interactive map denotes country boundaries in accordance with statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB) and does not represent the UK policy on disputed territories.

You can also explore the 2021 trade in goods data by commodity, such as car exports to the EU and UK tea or coffee imports.

Select a commodity from the drop-down menu or click through the levels to explore the data.

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Notes:
  1. For more information about our methods and how we compile these statistics, please see Trade in goods, country-by-commodity experimental data: 2011 to 2016. Users should note that the data published alongside this release are no longer experimental.

  2. These data are our best estimate of these bilateral UK trade flows. Users should note that alternative estimates are available, in some cases, via the statistical agencies for bilateral countries or through central databases such as UN Comtrade.

These interactive charts denote country boundaries in accordance with statistical classifications set out within Appendix 4 of the Balance of Payments (BoP) Vademecum (PDF, 1.1MB) and do not represent the UK policy on disputed territories.

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7. Revisions

In accordance with the National Accounts Revisions Policy, the data in this release have not been revised and only include new data for April 2022.

HM Revenue and Customs unscheduled correction

Following the publication of UK trade: April 2021, an error was identified in the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) overseas trade data used to compile the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) UK trade statistics.

Revisions for the period January 2020 to February 2021 were published in our UK trade: May 2021 bulletin on 9 July 2021, taking place outside of the usual National Accounts revisions period in order to ensure the ONS trade figures reflected the most up-to-date position. Revisions for pre-2020 will be incorporated in the annual Blue Book publication in October 2022.

We have published an article providing users with an indicative estimate of the likely scale and impact of these corrections on the ONS trade statistics before their publication in the August 2022 UK trade statistics, which are due to be published in October 2022.

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8. UK trade data

UK trade: goods and services publication tables
Dataset | Released 13 June 2022
Monthly data on the UK's trade in goods and services, including trade inside and outside the EU.

UK trade time series
Dataset MRET | Released 13 June 2022
Monthly value of UK exports and imports of goods and services by current price, chained volume measures (CVMs) and implied deflators (IDEFs).

UK trade in goods by classification of product by activity time series
Dataset | Released 16 March 2022
Quarterly and annual time series of the value of UK imports and exports of goods grouped by product. Goods are attributed to the activity of which they are the principal products.

Customise my data: country by commodity
Dataset | Released 13 June 2022
Customisable version of country by commodity data on the UK's trade in goods, including trade by all countries and selected commodities, exports and imports, non-seasonally adjusted.

Other related trade data
Dataset web page | Released 13 June 2022
Other UK trade data related to this publication. These include trade in goods for all countries with the UK, monthly export and import country-by-commodity trade in goods data, and revisions triangles for monthly trade data.

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9. Glossary

Chained volume measures (CVMs)

CVM estimates are a "real" measure in that they have had the effect of inflation removed to measure the change in volume between consecutive periods, fixing the prices of goods and services in one period (the base year).

Current price measures (CPs)

These estimates measure the actual price paid for goods or services and are not adjusted for inflation. Unless otherwise stated, all current price data are provided in £ million and are seasonally adjusted.

Inflation

Inflation is the change in the average price level of goods and services over a period of time.

Implied deflators (IDEFs)

An IDEF shows the implied change in average prices for the respective components of the trade balance, for example, the IDEF for imports will show the average price movement for imports.

Precious metals and non-monetary gold

Precious metals include precious metals, silver, platinum and palladium, and it forms part of the commodity group "unspecified goods". Non-monetary gold comprises the majority of this group and is the technical term for gold bullion not owned by central banks.

Trade balance

The trade balance is the difference between exports and imports or exports minus imports. When the value of exports is greater than the value of imports, the trade balance is in surplus. When the value of imports is greater than the value of exports, the trade balance is in deficit. The balance is sometimes referred to as "net exports".

A full Glossary of economic terms is available.

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10. Measuring the data

Making our published spreadsheets accessible

Over the coming months, all Office for National Statistics (ONS) datasets will be reviewed to ensure they meet the accessibility standards outlined in the Government Statistical Service (GSS) guidance on releasing statistics in spreadsheets. This is to ensure that all GSS outputs meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a legal requirement set out in The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

We welcome any feedback on these changes. Share your feedback by emailing the statistical contact provided on this page.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) data impact

Because of the challenges of data collection during the coronavirus pandemic, we have experienced challenges around the level of survey and data returns for this trade release.

Data sources

Data from the quarterly International Trade in Services (ITIS) Survey make up over 50% of trade in services data. View our UK trade QMI for more detail.

Data from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) are the main source for travel services, historically making up around 8% of total imports. Following suspension of the survey in 2020, the survey has now largely resumed, with a very small number of ports yet to have resumed interviewing. IPS data are being used with a small adjustment to account for the reduction in sample size, and we continue to quality assure our estimates using complimentary data sources. However, we advise continued caution when using these  data until the IPS is fully operational. View our UK trade QMI for more detail.

Data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) make up over 90% of trade in goods value and are the main source. We have worked closely with HMRC to prepare for the change in collection of customs data, which occurred at the end of the EU exit transition period. View further information in our article Impact of EU exit on the collection and compilation of UK trade statistics.

In line with international standards, our headline trade statistics contain the UK's exports and imports of non-monetary gold. View more information about the ONS's recording of non-monetary gold.

Unless otherwise specified, data within this bulletin are in current prices. This means they have not been adjusted to remove the effects of inflation.

Method

Trade is measured through both exports and imports of goods and services. Data are supplied by over 30 sources including several administrative sources, with HMRC being the largest for trade in goods.

View more detailed information about the methods used to produce UK trade statistics on our UK trade methodology web pages.

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11. Strengths and limitations

The UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade (PDF, 72.9KB) on 14 November 2014. We have now responded to all of the specific requirements of the reassessment of UK trade and, as part of our engagement with the Office for Statistics Regulation team, we are sharing our continuous improvement and development plans to support UK trade statistics regaining National Statistics status. We welcome feedback on our new trade statistics, developments and future plans by email to trade@ons.gov.uk.

Trade asymmetries

Asymmetries can be caused by a range of conceptual and measurement variations between the estimation practices of different countries. Statistical agencies are likely to have different source data, estimation methods, and methodological, geographical and definitional differences. More information on trade in goods asymmetries is published by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), while analysis on trade in services asymmetries is published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our UK trade QMI.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Hannah Donnarumma
trade@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 1329 447648