UK’s EU Trade Scorecard Before Brexit

UK’s EU Trade Scorecard Before Brexit

British rally bus

This ongoing analysis tracks key metrics focusing on the United Kingdom’s export sales and trade balances with the European Union by top trade products and also at the country level for each EU member.

In 2017, the EU maintained its status as a global trade behemoth comprised of 28 members collectively generating US$5.719 trillion worth of export sales or almost a third (32.5%) of worldwide shipments by value.

Mirroring the generally bright economic landscape in which exports from all countries rose 10.7% from 2016 to 2017, the value of global exports from European Union also improved year over year albeit at the modestly slower 9.5% pace.

The percentage gains vary by individual EU members, particularly the smaller economies. For instance, global exports from Cyprus appreciated by 75.4% year over year compared to the -20.3% slowdown for Malta.

UK exports to fellow EU members depreciated by an average -10.9% from 2013 to 2017 but appreciated by 8.3% from 2016 to 2017. Those changes compare to UK’s -19.3% slowdown since 2013 exporting to all worldwide trade partners juxtaposed with a 7.4% gain from 2016 to 2017.

UK’s EU Trade Scorecard Before Brexit

EU Exports

Below is an interactive list showcasing the value of UK exports to individual European Union trade partners during 2017. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of overall UK exports to the EU. You can change list order by clicking on a column heading.

RankEU ImporterUK Exports to EU2016-7
1Germany$46.7 billion+6.6%
2France$30.4 billion+14.9%
3Netherlands$27.6 billion+8.2%
4Ireland$25.1 billion+9.6%
5Belgium$17.8 billion+13%
6Spain$13.5 billion+3.4%
7Italy$13.2 billion+0.6%
8Sweden$6.8 billion+10%
9Poland$6.4 billion+13.1%
10Denmark$3.5 billion+5%
11Czech Republic$2.7 billion-5.1%
12Austria$2.4 billion-0.9%
13Portugal$2 billion+4.8%
14Hungary$1.9 billion+2.2%
15Finland$1.8 billion-2.4%
16Romania$1.6 billion+14.1%
17Greece$1.3 billion+3.5%
18Slovakia$776.3 million+8.7%
19Lithuania$714.3 million+61.7%
20Malta$658.7 million+24.3%
21Bulgaria$587.1 million-12.3%
22Cyprus$489.6 million+12.5%
23Latvia$456.3 million+42.5%
24Slovenia$351.3 million+6.7%
25Luxembourg$342.4 million+20.9%
26Estonia$325.8 million+3.5%
27Croatia$245.1 million+10%

Only four EU countries cut back on their import purchases from the UK from 2016 to 2017: Bulgaria (down -12.3%), Czech Republic (down -5.1%), Finland (down -2.4%) and Austria (down -0.9%).

The remaining 24 EU members increased their consumption of UK exported goods led by Lithuania’s 61.7% gain. Other notable changes belong to Latvia (up 42.5%), Malta (up 24.3%), Luxembourg (20.9%), France (up 14.9%) and Romania (up 14.1%).


Trading within the European Union, the UK incurred an overall -$131 billion deficit in 2017. That deficit fell by -4.4% since 2016 when the UK’s trade loss vis-à-vis the EU was -$137 billion. Drilling down, below are individual trade deficits or surpluses for each of the UK’s 27 EU trade partners.

RankIntra-EU TraderEU Trade Balance2016-7
1Germany-$43 billion-2.9%
2France-$6.1 billion-35.8%
3Netherlands-$23.8 billion+8.9%
4Ireland$6.3 billion+33.8%
5Belgium-$14.4 billion-8.9%
6Spain-$6.7 billion-18.3%
7Italy-$11.8 billion+6.6%
8Sweden-$2.2 billion-3.4%
9Poland-$7.2 billion+5.3%
10Denmark-$2.9 billion+47.8%
11Czech Republic-$4.5 billion+3.8%
12Austria-$1.9 billion-1.8%
13Portugal-$1.9 billion+12.2%
14Hungary-$1.7 billion-5.2%
15Finland-$1.4 billion+24.2%
16Romania-$974.1 million+4%
17Greece$166 million+2.2%
18Slovakia-$2.5 billion-8.8%
19Lithuania-$236.6 million-61.3%
20Malta$479.6 million+83.8%
21Bulgaria$4.7 million-95.8%
22Cyprus$296.8 million+50.3%
23Latvia-$330.7 million-44%
24Slovenia-$185.9 million-10.4%
25Luxembourg-$169.5 million-42.3%
26Estonia$29 million-424.2%
27Croatia$92.8 million+5.4%

Among UK’s import partners that cause the greatest positive trade balances, UK surpluses with Malta (up 83.8%), Cyprus (up 50.3%), Croatia (up 5.4%) and Greece (up 2.2%) expanded from 2016 to 2017.

EU trade partners with the UK that experienced higher deficits in 2017 compared to 2016 were led by Denmark (up 47.8%), Finland (up 24.2%), Portugal (up 12.2%) and the Netherlands (up 8.9%).

Deficit Goods

Below are the products that caused the highest negative net exports for the UK in its trade with the EU. These deficits reveal product categories where EU purchases from Great Britain trail its import spending on EU products.

In 2017, UK incurred the highest deficits due to the following products.

RankIntra-EU Traded ProductUK Product Deficit2016-7
1Cars-$21.5 billion-6%
2Automobile parts/accessories-$8 billion-0.1%
3Trucks-$5 billion-4%
4Blood fractions (including antisera)-$5 billion-2.4%
5Phone system devices including smartphones-$4.7 billion-2.4%
6Computers, optical readers-$3.9 billion+23.5%
7Medication mixes not in dosage-$3.6 billion+65.1%
8Aircraft, spacecraft-$3.3 billion-30.5%
9Wine -$2.5 billion-1.8%
10TV receivers/monitors/projectors-$2.1 billion+10.1%
11Piston engine parts-$1.9 billion+29.2%
12Turbo-jets-$1.8 billion-31.7%
13Sawn wood-$1.7 billion+10.6%
14Miscellaneous furniture-$1.6 billion+10%
15Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries-$1.54 billion+8%
16Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)-$1.53 billion+9.7%
17Medication mixes in dosage-$1.47 billion-39.4%
18Insulated wire/cable-$1.42 billion-9.4%
19Cheese, curd-$1.4 billion+6.3%
20Silver (unwrought)-$1.36 billion+20.1%
21Jewelry-$1.4 billion+33.9%
22Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)-$1.29 billion-2.3%
23Printing machinery-$1.27 billion-10.4%
24Chocolate, other cocoa preparations-$1.27 billion+2.3%
25Processed petroleum oils-$1.2 billion-37.9%

Fastest-growing deficit creators for the UK are drugs and medicines (up 65.1%), jewelry (up 33.9%), piston engine parts (up 29.2%), computers including optical readers (up 23.5%) and silver (up 20.1%).

Surplus Goods

Below are the products that caused the highest positive net exports for the UK in its trade with the EU. These deficits reveal product categories where Great Britain’s export sales to the EU exceed its import spending on EU products.

RankIntra-EU Traded ProductsUK Product Surplus2016-7
1Crude oil$11.8 billion+29%
2Aircraft parts$8.6 billion+13.6%
3Petroleum gases$1.9 billion+33.4%
4Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$1.8 billion+10.6%
5Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$1.3 billion+172.6%
6Acyclic hydrocarbons$1 billion+28.5%
7Platinum (unwrought)$867.2 million+60.2%
8Printed books, brochures$610 million+5.3%
9Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$471.9 million+25.3%
10Piston engines$470 million+86.3%
11Iron or steel scrap$451.1 million+23.1%
12Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$428.9 million+152.3%
13Sheep or goat meat$415 million+7.5%
14Stainless steel ingots$398 million+40.2%
15Aluminum (unwrought)$366.9 million+15.2%
16Other coloring matter, luminophores$351.1 million+20.7%
17Precious metal compounds$306.3 million+2.9%
18Copper waste, scrap$298.7 million+7.1%
19Cyclic hydrocarbons$290 million-10.2%
20Crustaceans (including lobsters)$267.9 million+9.4%
21Lead (unwrought)$258.6 million+18.9%
22Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps$233.9 million-43%
23Personal toilet/shaving preparations, deodorants$209.5 million+11.5%
24Not concentrated/unsweetened milk, cream$201.5 million+102.4%
25Whole fish (fresh)$200.6 million+165.1%

Products with accelerating surpluses for the UK are led by diamonds (up 172.6%) trailed by fresh whole fish (up 165.1%), heavy machinery including bulldozers (up 152.3%), non-concentrated and unsweetened milk (up 102.4%) then piston engines (up 86.3%).


Great Britain’s GDP Performance from 2016 to 2017

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, the United Kingdom’s GDP in 2017 was US$2.925 trillion. That amount reflects a 3.6% uptick since 2016–a lagging score that falls short of the average 5.5% improvement for all 28 EU members.

RankEU Member2017 GDP (PPP)From 2016
1Germany4.199 trillion+4.4%
2United Kingdom2.925 trillion+3.6%
3France2.856 trillion+4.3%
4Italy2.317 trillion+3.4%
5Spain1.778 trillion+4.9%
6Poland1.126 trillion+6.6%
7Netherlands924.4 billion+4.8%
8Belgium529.2 billion+3.7%
9Sweden518 billion+4.1%
10Romania483.4 billion+9%
11Austria441 billion+5%
12Czech Republic375.9 billion+6.3%
13Ireland353.3 billion+9.2%
14Portugal314.1 billion+4.6%
15Greece299.3 billion+3.3%
16Hungary289.6 billion+6%
17Denmark287.8 billion+4.2%
18Finland244.9 billion+4.8%
19Slovak Republic179.7 billion+5.4%
20Bulgaria153.5 billion+5.5%
21Croatia102.1 billion+4.7%
22Lithuania91.5 billion+5.8%
23Slovenia71.2 billion+7%
24Luxembourg62.1 billion+4.2%
25Latvia54 billion+6.5%
26Estonia41.7 billion+6.8%
27Cyprus31.8 billion+5.8%
28Malta19.3 billion+8.7%

Please note that the above GDP numbers use the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) methodology which factors in living costs and inflation rates. According to International Monetary Fund documentation, PPP takes into consideration living standards among the different countries.

See also United Kingdom’s Top Trading Partners, United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports and Top EU Export Countries

Research Sources:
The World Factbook, Field Listing: Imports – Commodities, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on December 7, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, Accessed on December 7, 2018

Investopedia, Net Importer Definition. Accessed on December 7, 2018

Wikipedia, Opinion Polling for the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. Accessed on December 7, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database. Accessed on December 7, 2018