The United Kingdom exported US$224.8 billion worth of goods to European Union members during 2018 or 46.2% of UK’s global exports total of $487.1 billion. The EU dollar amount reflects an 7.2% increase in UK-to-EU international sales from 2017 to 2018 but a -6.9% reduction from $241.6 billion in 2014.
In comparison, total UK exports to all trade partners worldwide shrank at a slightly slower average pace down -4.7% from 2014 but posted a greater gain of 10.2% from 2017 to 2018.
Year over year, goods imported into Britain from European Union suppliers accelerated in value by 5.6% to $359.8 billion in 2018 but fell by -5.1% over the 5-year period starting in 2014.
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 2018. 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 detail on what products were actually shipped to the EU than category-level.
- Cars: US$15.9 billion (down -7.2% since 2017)
- Crude oil: $15.5 billion (up 29.9%)
- Aircraft parts: $10.6 billion (up 2.1%)
- Medication mixes in dosage: $9.8 billion (down -10.8%)
- Processed petroleum oils: $9 billion (up 31.7%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $4.9 billion (up 7.3%)
- Turbo-jets: $4.2 billion (up 4.4%)
- Petroleum gases: $3.4 billion (up 4.5%)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: $3.2 billion (up 10.1%)
- Blood fractions (including antisera): $2.9 billion (down -23.4%)
- Computers, optical readers: $2.7 billion (up 15.7%)
- Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs): $2.6 billion (up 5.9%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $1.7 billion (up 2.3%)
- Acyclic hydrocarbons: $1.6 billion (up 29.3%)
- Platinum (unwrought): $1.5 billion (up 1.7%)
- Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays): $1.5 billion (up 9.7%)
- Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers): $1.5 billion (up 28.1%)
- Diamonds (unmounted/unset): $1.4 billion (down -12.8%)
- Engines (diesel): $1.4 billion (up 10%)
- Printing machinery: $1.4 billion (up 21.5%)
These 20 major exported goods accounted for $96.8 billion or 43.1% of all UK shipments to the EU in 2018.
Processed petroleum oils was the fastest-growing among UK’s top exports to the EU, expanding by 31.7% since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was crude oil which appreciated by 29.9% followed by acyclic hydrocarbons via its 29.3% improvement then heavy machinery including bulldozers and excavators with a 28.1% expansion.
Four major exports from Britain to the EU declined in value from 2017 to 2018 namely blood fractions including antisera (down -23.4%), unset raw diamonds (down -12.8%), medication mixed in dosage (down -10.8%) and cars (down -7.2%).
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 2018. Shown within brackets is the percentage value for each country based on total UK sales to the EU.
- Germany: US$46.7 billion (20.8% of UK exports to EU)
- Netherlands: $33.1 billion (14.7%)
- France: $31.9 billion (14.2%)
- Ireland: $28.2 billion (12.5%)
- Belgium: $18.9 billion (8.4%)
- Italy: $14 billion (6.2%)
- Spain: $13.9 billion (6.2%)
- Sweden: $7.4 billion (3.3%)
- Poland: $6.8 billion (3%)
- Denmark: $3.6 billion (1.6%)
- Czech Republic: $2.9 billion (1.3%)
- Austria: $2.7 billion (1.2%)
- Portugal: $2.1 billion (0.9%)
- Hungary: $1.9 billion (0.9%)
- Finland: $1.9 billion (0.8%)
- Romania: $1.7 billion (0.8%)
- Greece: $1.6 billion (0.7%)
- Malta: $852.5 million (0.4%)
- Slovakia: $818.2 million (0.4%)
- Lithuania: $630.2 million (0.3%)
- Bulgaria: $585.3 million (0.3%)
- Cyprus: $526.4 million (0.2%)
- Latvia: $517 million (0.2%)
- Slovenia: $437.1 million (0.2%)
- Estonia: $359.3 million (0.2%)
- Croatia: $325.8 million (0.1%)
- Luxembourg: $319.6 million (0.1%)
The top five EU importers of British exported goods represent 70.7% of the EU subtotal.
The fastest-growing EU customers for products shipped from the UK from 2017 to 2018 were Croatia (up 32.9%), Malta (up 29.4%), Slovenia (up 24.4%), Greece (up 22.7%) then the Netherlands (up 20.2%).
Three EU trade partners restricted their purchases of UK exports year over year, namely Lithuania (down -11.8%), Luxembourg (down -6.7%) and Bulgaria (down -0.3%).
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 2018. 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$15.5 billion (up 31.3% since 2017)
- Aircraft parts: $8.3 billion (down -2.8%)
- Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs): $1.8 billion (up 3.6%)
- Acyclic hydrocarbons: $1.3 billion (up 31.2%)
- Petroleum gases: $1 billion (down -43.8%)
- Platinum (unwrought): $956.8 million (up 10.3%)
- Diamonds (unmounted/unset): $907.2 million (down -29%)
- Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers): $609.1 million (up 42%)
- Printed books, brochures: $585.7 million (down -4%)
- Stainless steel ingots: $511.2 million (up 28.4%)
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 -$134.9 billion product trade deficit trading with EU countries in 2018. That dollar amount compares with UK’s -$182.6 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 2018. 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$22 billion (up 2.4% since 2017)
- Automobile parts/accessories: -$8.9 billion (up 10.4%)
- Trucks: -$5.4 billion (up 8%)
- Blood fractions (including antisera): -$4.8 billion (down -3.6%)
- Computers, optical readers: -$4.8 billion (up 21.8%)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: -$4.5 billion (down -3%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$2.9 billion (down -13.3%)
- Wine: -$2.6 billion (up 3.7%)
- Medication mixes not in dosage: -$2.5 billion (down -32.2%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: -$2.3 billion (up 5.6%)
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
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 23, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 23, 2019
The World Factbook, Europe: European Union. Accessed on August 23, 2019
Wikipedia, European Union. Accessed on August 23, 2019