Year over year, the overall value of Britain’s imports rose from $688.2 billion in 2021.
Britain’s imports represent 3.6% of overall spending on global imports estimated at $22.432 trillion for 2022.
Britain’s top 5 products imported in 2022 were petroleum gases, cars, gold, crude oil, then processed petroleum oils. Combined, those 5 types of imports accounted for over one-quarter (26.5%) of total British spending on imported products.
Britain’s Most Valuable International Suppliers
The latest available country-specific data shows that 70.8% of products imported into Britain were supplied by exporters in: mainland China (35.6% of France’s global total), United States of America (7.5%), Germany (5.2%), Norway (5.1%), France (4%), Italy (2.8%), Netherlands (2.7%), Spain (2.2%), Belgium (also 2.2%), Ireland (1.8%), Poland (1.7%) and Canada (1.3%).
From a continental perspective, almost half (56.7%) of Britain’s total imports by value in 2022 were purchased from fellow European countries (compared to 33.8% from European Union members). Trade partners in Asia supplied 29.3% of import purchases by Britain while 15% originated from North America.
Smaller percentages came from Africa (3%), Latin America (2.6%) including the Caribbean but excluding Mexico, then Oceania (0.5%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Britain’s population of 67.6 million people, its total $815.1 billion in 2022 imports translates to roughly $12,100 in yearly product demand from every person living in Britain. That dollar metric exceeds the average $10,300 per capita of import spending one year earlier in 2021.
Britain’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Britain’s import purchases during 2022 at the two-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Britain.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$137.2 billion (16.8% of total imports)
- Machinery including computers: $89.3 billion (11%)
- Vehicles: $73.8 billion (9.1%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $66.4 billion (8.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $60.6 billion (7.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $33.1 billion (4.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $22.7 billion (2.8%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $21.9 billion (2.7%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting , signs, prefab buildings: $14.6 billion (1.8%)
- Organic chemicals: $14.3 billion (1.8%)
Britain’s top 10 imports accounted for almost two-thirds (65.5%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
The mineral fuels including oil category posted the greatest increase from 2021 to 2022, up by 95.3%.
In second place were British imports of pharmaceuticals (up 22.7%) trailed by purchases of imported organic chemicals (up 22%) and vehicles (up 18.3%).
The lone decliner was the precious metals category, dragged down by a -26.5% decline year over year caused mainly by lower revenues from imported gold.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more detailed view of imported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the sections below.
Top British Imports of Mineral Fuels Including Oil
In 2022, Britain’s importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of mineral fuels-related goods.
- Petroleum gases: US$60.2 billion (up 124.5% from 2021
- Crude oil: $39.5 billion (up 65.1%)
- Processed petroleum oils: $29.6 billion (up 120.7%)
- Electrical energy: $3.4 billion (down -14.6%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $1.9 billion (up 192.2%)
- Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $880.5 million (up 224.8%)
- Coke, semi-coke: $830.9 million (up 42.2%)
- Petroleum oil residues: $624.6 million (up 56%)
- Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $77.8 million (up 7.3%)
- Peat: $52.4 million (down -35.4%)
Among these import subcategories, British purchases of petroleum gases (up 340.3%), electrical energy (up 318.6%) then coke or semi-coke (up 123%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported mineral fuels-related products among British businesses and consumers.
Top British Imports of Machinery Including Computers
In 2022, Britain’s importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Turbo-jets: US$21.8 billion (up 44% from 2021
- Computers, optical readers: $13.7 billion (down -15.9%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: $3.6 billion (up 9.4%)
- Piston engine parts: $3.1 billion (up 2.6%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $3 billion (up 13.9%)
- Air or vacuum pumps: $2.6 billion (up 16.5%)
- Machinery parts: $2.5 billion (up 6.3%)
- Printing machinery: $2.5 billion (up 8.8%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $2.4 billion (up 21.8%)
- Refrigerators, freezers: $2.2 billion (down -4.2%)
Among these import subcategories, British purchases of highly capital-intensive turbo-jets (up 44%), liquid pumps and elevators (up 21.8%), then air or vacuum pumps (up 16.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported machinery among Britain’s businesses and consumers.
Top British Imports of Vehicles by Product
In 2022, Britain’s importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of vehicles.
- Cars: US$44.6 billion (up 30.7% from 2021
- Automobile parts/accessories: $11.5 billion (down -5.1%)
- Trucks: $9.5 billion (up 6.1%)
- Tractors: $2.8 billion (up 42.2%)
- Trailers: $1.5 billion (up 26.5%)
- Motorcycles: $1.2 billion (up 53%)
- Motorcycle parts/accessories: $602.3 million (up 6.6%)
- Automobile bodies: $535 million (down -30.8%)
- Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles: $501.3 million (down -2.8%)
- Special purpose vehicles: $210.2 million (up 5.7%)
Among these import subcategories, British purchases of motorcycles (up 53%), tractors (up 42.2%) then cars (up 30.7%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
These amounts clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported vehicles among Britain’s businesses and consumers.
Top British Imports of Electronics by Product
Britain’s importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electrical products including consumer electronics during 2022.
- Phone system devices including smartphones: US$16.6 billion (down -5.2% from 2021
- Insulated wire/cable: $5 billion (up 2.4%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $4.4 billion (up 19.3%)
- Electrical converters/power units: $3.6 billion (up 46%)
- Integrated circuits/microassemblies: $3.3 billion (up 16.9%)
- Electric storage batteries: $3.3 billion (up 37.9%)
- Electric water heaters, hair dryers: $3 billion (up 0.3%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $2.8 billion (down -7.5%)
- Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $2.6 billion (up 39.1%)
- Electrical machinery: $2.1 billion (up 61.3%)
Among these import subcategories, British purchases of electrical machinery (up 61.3%), electrical converters and power units (up 46%) then electrical and optical circuit boards or panels (up 39.1%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported electronics among Britain’s businesses and consumers.
See also United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports, United Kingdom’s Top Trading Partners, UK’s Major Trade Balances with America, United Kingdom’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and United Kingdom’s Exported Services
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on April 1, 2023
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 1, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 1, 2023