UK trade with EU slump at the expense of Brexit: ONS

The impact of Brexit on trade with Europe is revealed by official figures revealing that Britain’s trade with EU countries has plummeted by nearly a quarter.

The National Bureau of Statistics (ONS) said total trade in commodities with EU countries fell 23.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of 2018, which was seen as the last stable trading period. I did.

But at the same time, trade with countries outside the EU was forced into a much less dramatic retreat of 0.8% as a sign of the sacrifices brought about by Brexit’s turmoil and the end of the transition period.

Trade between Ireland and Germany has been hit hard, with exports to Ireland, one of the UK’s top five export partners, declining by 47.3% between December and January.

Imports from Germany, the UK’s largest EU trading partner, fell by 30.5% or £ 1.7 billion ($ 2.4 billion) between December and January. This is the largest reduction in imports due to the commodity value of major trading partners.

Pandemics have also caused havoc in world trade, but data compiled by ONS suggests that this has been mitigated while Brexit hits are on the rise.

A poll conducted by ONS at the end of February revealed that companies cited the end of December 31 of the EU transition period as a major trade agenda.

But in contrast, those who reported the coronavirus crisis as the biggest challenge fell.

After the ONS figures earlier this month showed that imports from countries other than the EU overtook imports into Europe for the first time in the three months to March 31.

According to the data, total trade (imports and exports) with non-EU countries also exceeded that from Europe in the first quarter.

While the Northern Ireland Protocol has caused significant turmoil on the UK-Northern Ireland border, companies have suffered increased bureaucratic formalism and delays at the port since Brexit at the end of the year.

However, ONS added a note to the numbers, stating:

“Therefore, it is premature to assess how the transition period reflects short-term trade turmoil and long-term supply chain adjustments.”

The latest trade statistics expect EU trade problems to begin to ease at the end of the first quarter, with data showing that exports to the EU increased by 8.6% between February and March. There is.

Imports from the EU also increased by 4.5% a month.

However, exports to countries other than the EU surged 9.9% in March, showing a recovery around the world.

Secretary-General Kwasi Kwaten admitted to Parliamentarians at Commons on Tuesday that January’s trade value was “very bad” due to Brexit uncertainty.

“The data for the second quarter and March was much better, so I’m confident that the next quarter will give better results and the following quarters will show a proportional improvement,” he added. ..

Currently, China and the United States are the top two trading partners outside the EU, and the UK has been importing more commodities from China since the second quarter of 2020 than any other country.

Chinese goods accounted for 16.1% of all UK goods imported in the first quarter, an increase of 65.6% compared to the same period in 2018.

ONS said the pandemic’s impact on China’s exports was limited and trade with China increased from late 2020 as China first recovered from the crisis.

Demand for Chinese-made face masks, personal protective equipment, other communications products and clothing also surged.

Holly Williams