August 31, 2019

The UK's Office for National Statistics provides by far the best data with which to analyse long-term trends in UK trade. It's current release (accessed March, 2019, on which this site relies) tracks exports and imports with EU and non-EU trade partners back to 1998 for goods, and 1999 for services. By examining data on trade with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) partners, by separating out trade with EU Accession States since 2004, and by extracting trad...

November 8, 2018

The UK car industry's approach to frictionless trade is an enigma. Its principal industry body - the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders - argues that any trade barriers would be detrimental to the UK car manufacturing. Yet, seamless trade with the EU delivers a massive £28 billion trade deficit. To see the impact of the Customs Union on the UK car industry, analysts should lift the bonnet on the industry's track record since 1998 – inside and outside the EU....

September 13, 2018

There’s a difference between what seamless trade with the EU is supposed to achieve in theory and what it's actually achieved in practice. Thanks to historical trade data published by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), we now know the difference is huge. By making multiple comparisons in UK, EU and non-EU trade since 1998, it’s possible to judge the UK's record inside Customs Union and Single Market over the past 20 years, and assess the real value of seamless, tariff-free trade with t...

August 20, 2018

A single assumption underpins all debate on UK’s post-Brexit trade objectives: that trade within the Customs Union and the Single Market delivers real value for UK industry and creates jobs. By eliminating customs duties and import checks, the Customs Union is supposed to facilitate UK’s £423 bn[1] trade in goods with the EU and give UK companies preferential access to EU markets. By creating uniform standards, the Single Market is supposed to ease the cost of regulatory compliance.

But what if t...

August 20, 2018

Export Categories 1–5

In 2017, manufacturing contributed 89% of all UK goods exports, down only fractionally from 91% in 1998. But the composition of UK exports has changed dramatically. Since 1998, exports of computers and electronics have collapsed, and exports to EU – where the collapse occurred – are now worth just 37% of their 1998 value. The big growth in UK exports since 1998 is in motor vehicles (worth £44.9 billion in 2017) , although this growth is predominantly due to sales of luxury v...

August 20, 2018

Export Categories 6–10

The second half of UK’s top-ten export categories comprise: computers & electronics (£27 bn), basic metals (£15.7 bn), food products (£13 bn), electrical equipment (£12 bn) and beverages (£7.8 bn). Together, these sectors contribute 25.1% of UK manufacturing exports, and 80.7% when added to the top five. This means the 20-year trends identified among these top ten sectors hold good for almost three-quarters (72%) of all UK goods exports. And unfortunately for UK’s trade wit...

November 17, 2016

With 7% annual growth and a pro-business BJP government, India is a fertile prospect for post-Brexit Britain’s trade endeavours. But to avoid rebuff, UK needs to start modestly, tap into India’s development goals, and cultivate natural partnerships in ICT, automotive and health.

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  • India’s US$ 225 billion ICT industry wants better access to UK

  • Lowering India’s 150% tariff on whisky would send Scotch exports rocketing

  • Australia’s five-year India trade talks suffer politics-driven setba...

August 10, 2016

The UK's Department for International Trade (DIT) needs to resolve complex policy questions quickly: should UK pursue Free Trade; should finance take precedence over industry; what protection is UK willing to negotiate away? The faster the UK re-thinks its political economy the better.

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  • Trade negotiators need clear political and commercial objectives 

  • Scotland's £5 billion whisky industry battles high tariffs in India & the Gulf 

  • UK’s top performers a...

August 10, 2016

With just two years to scope out post-Brexit trade deals and limited expertise to hand, UK trade negotiators are in an exceptionally weak bargaining position. But UK could dramatically strengthen its hand by creating a competitive evaluation process for trade deals.                          

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  • UK could extract best FTA terms by getting countries to compete

  • Evaluation would make best use of scarce negotiating resources

  • Down-s...

May 26, 2016

The EU Single Market stopped being an asset for UK goods exporters a decade ago. Today, UK exports of goods to EU have stalled, imports are surging, and services don’t cover the deficit. The UK's global trade is far healthier — and for good reason.

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  • UK goods exports to EU stalled in 2008

  • Exports to countries outside the EU are growing quickly

  • The £85 billion deficit in goods trade with EU worsens by £10 bn every year

  • The US does a better trade with EU than UK — and th...

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