Trends still point to lack of sustained boost to exports

11th April 2022

Commenting on the data Head of Trade Policy at the BCC William Bain said:

“The effects of data collection changes still unwinding make monthly comparisons impossible, but taking a longer snapshot there are still issues of concern for businesses. EU exports were 0.3% lower in February 2022 than in December 2021. More firms are affected by higher export and import paperwork compliance burdens than a year ago. Overall goods exports in the three months to February 2022 were 1.2% lower than in the three months to February 2018. 

“We are not seeing the sustained rise in exports out of the pandemic on the scale which UK businesses had hoped for. On some metrics trade is rising again, including with the EU, but not on the same growth levels being experienced by some of our largest trading neighbours.  

“We urge policymakers to action the recommendations we set out in our Trade Manifesto and TCA: One Year On documents to raise exports and lower red tape burdens and costs for businesses. With growing headwinds to trade from the war in Ukraine now is the time to take action.” 

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UK trade data from the ONS remained volatile in February 2022 as changes in data collection methods unwind. The figures for February 2022 reported a 25% increase in exports (following a 22% decline the previous month). Comparing the last 3 months data together with that over the same period 4 years ago reveals that exports in goods were £1bn lower (1.2%). It is hard to discern therefore any sustained increase in UK exports of the levels currently occurring in our largest neighbouring trading partners. 

Furthermore, the ONS Business Insights and Conditions Survey reveals increasing challenges faced by firms with export and import paperwork respectively. 68% of exporters and 70% of importers reported these challenges in February to March 2022 a rise of 7% and 9% respectively. This echoes BCC data which finds a similar worsening trend.  

Exports to the EU were 0.3% lower in February 2022 compared with December 2021. Overall goods exports in  

On goods imports from the EU, a 10.8% increase was detected over the period from the 3 months to November 2021 to the 3 months to February 2022. Overall UK exports rose in the same period by 4.1%, with EU exports up by 3.3%, and non-EU exports up by 4.9%. 

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