The United Kingdom exported US$215.4 billion worth of goods to nations that are European Union members during 2019 or 46% of UK’s global exports total of $468.3 billion. The EU subtotal reflects an 2.8% increase in UK-to-EU international sales from 2017 to 2019 but a -5.4% reduction from $227.7 billion in 2018.
In comparison, overall UK exports to all trade partners worldwide shrank at a slightly slower average pace down -4.6% from 2018 but posted a greater gain of 6% from 2017 to 2019. These metrics suggest a lessening dependency on the EU as a customer for exported goods from Britain.
United Kingdom’s Major Exports to the European Union
The following exported products garnered the highest dollar value from the UK’s shipments to the EU during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export represents in terms of EU-bound exports from the UK.
Please note that the list is sorted in descending order and is at the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level thus giving more specifics on what products were shipped to the EU.
- Crude oil: $15.9 billion (down -8.8% since 2018)
- Cars: $15.3 billion (down -3.8%)
- Aircraft parts: $10.2 billion (down -3.9%)
- Medication mixes in dosage: $8.6 billion (down -12.9%)
- Processed petroleum oils: $8.2 billion (down -7.8%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $4.6 (down -7.3%)
- Turbo-jets: $4.3 billion (up 2.4%)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: $3.4 billion (up 3.2%)
- Computers, optical readers: $3.1 billion (up 12.2%)
- Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs): $2.7 (up 0.5%)
- Petroleum gases: $2.5 billion (down -24.9%)
- Jewelry: $2 billion (up 104.6%)
- Blood fractions (including antisera): $1.9 billion (down -35.2%)
- Platinum (unwrought): $1.6 billion (up 5.9%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $1,58 billion (down -8%)
- Engines (diesel): $1.53 billion (up 8%)
- Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays): $1.49 billion (up 2.2%)
- Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers): $1.47 billion (down -0.9%)
- Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels: $1.32 billion (up 152%)
- Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations: $1.3 billion (down -1%)
These 20 major exported goods accounted for $93 billion or 43.2% of all UK shipments to the EU in 2019.
Yachts and other pleasure or sports vessels were the fastest-growers among UK’s top exports to the EU, accelerating by 152% since 2018. In second place for improving export sales was jewelry which appreciated by 104.6% followed by computers via a 12.2% improvement year over year.
The most dramatic declines among major exports from Britain to the EU were for blood fractions including antisera (down -35.2%). Petroleum gases (down -24.9%), medication mixes in dosages (down -12.9%) and crude oil (down -8.8%).
EU Trade Partners Consuming UK Exports
The following list shows the US-dollar value of UK exported goods bought by member countries of the European Union during 2019. Shown within brackets is the percentage value for each country based on total UK sales to the EU.
- Germany: US$46.4 billion (21.5% of UK exports to EU)
- France: $31.4 billion (14.6%)
- Netherlands: $30.4 billion (14.1%)
- Ireland: $27.8 billion (12.9%)
- Belgium: $16.5 billion (7.7%)
- Spain: $13.7 billion (6.4%)
- Italy: $12.7 billion (5.9%)
- Poland: $6.8 billion (3.1%)
- Sweden: $6.4 billion (3%)
- Denmark: $3.4 billion (1.6%)
- Czech Republic: $2.8 billion (1.3%)
- Austria: $2.4 billion (1.1%)
- Portugal: $2 billion (0.9%)
- Malta: $1.8 billion (0.8%)
- Hungary: $1.7 billion (0.8%)
- Finland: $1.66 billion (0.8%)
- Romania: $1.62 billion (0.8%)
- Slovakia: $1.4 billion (0.6%)
- Greece: $1.3 billion (0.6%)
- Lithuania: $668.9 million (0.3%)
- Cyprus: $546.1 million (0.3%)
- Latvia: $493.7 million (0.2%)
- Bulgaria: $477.4 million (0.2%)
- Slovenia: $356.2 million (0.2%)
- Estonia: $322.3 million (0.1%)
- Luxembourg: $302.6 million (0.1%)
- Croatia: $267.6 million (0.1%)
The top five EU importers of British exported goods represent 70.8% of EU consumption.
Four EU customers increased purchases of products exported from the UK from 2018 to 2019 namely Malta (up 105.8%), Slovakia (up 68.4%), Lithuania (up 5.8%) and Cyprus (up 3.4%).
Leading the declines were Bulgaria (down -18.9%), Slovenia (down -18.7%). Croatia (down -18.2%), Greece (down -17.4%) and Finland (down -14.3%).
The following types of UK product shipments represent the strongest positive net exports or a trade balance surplus via its transactions with EU members in 2019. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Crude oil: US$15.8 billion (down -9% since 2018)
- Aircraft parts: $8.2 billion (down -4.3%)
- Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs): $2 billion (up 3.8%)
- Petroleum gases: $1.9 billion (up 83.4%)
- Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels: $1.1 billion (up 246.5%)
- Engines (diesel): $810.4 million (up 1471.7%)
- Acyclic hydrocarbons: $805.5 million (down -37.8%)
- Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $623.2 million (up 65.2%)
- Printed books, brochures: $619 million (up 2.3%)
- Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers): $594.5 million (down -6.6%)
The United Kingdom has highly positive net exports in the international trade of crude oil with EU members. In turn, these cashflows indicate UK’s strongest competitive advantage is for crude oil then aircraft parts and alcoholic beverages.
The United Kingdom incurred a -$127.2 billion product trade deficit trading with EU countries in 2019. That dollar amount compares with UK’s -$224.2 billion in red ink for overall worldwide trade with all nations.
Below are exported goods from the UK to the EU that resulted in the most severe negative net exports or product trade balance deficits in 2019. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country UK’s goods trail its importer spending on products bought from EU members.
- Cars: -US$23 billion (up 3.6% since 2018)
- Automobile parts/accessories: -$8.2 billion (down -6.9%)
- Trucks: -$6.5 billion (up 20.1%)
- Blood fractions (including antisera): -$4.4 billion (down -8.3%)
- Medication mixes not in dosage: -$3.8 billion (up 54.7%)
- Medication mixes in dosage: -$3.5 billion (up 71.9%)
- Computers, optical readers: -$3.4 billion (down -27.3%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$3.2 billion (up 18.7%)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: -$2.7 billion (down -38.8%)
- Wine: -$2.7 billion (up 2.8%)
The UK posted negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for cars, a transportation product that has relatively high per-unit costs.
See also United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports, United Kingdom’s Top Trading Partners, United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports and United Kingdom’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Europe: European Union. Accessed on January 4, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on January 4, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on January 4, 2021
Wikipedia, European Union. Accessed on January 4, 2021