The State of Britain

A significant uplift in the capital’s exports and the City imports £14.5bn of services compared with £219m in Barnet

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HMRC has published the latest regional trade figures which show exports and imports for 2019. Given the time period this data reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil. 

In the year to December 2019, the overall value of UK trade in goods exports increased by 2.1% to £346bn compared with the same period in 2018. The overall value of imports increased by 0.3% to £483bn.

There was an increase in the annual export value in London along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The capital’s exports increased by 17.2% or £6bn to £44bn which was 13% of the UK total.  

The leading regional exporter remained the SE with £46bn with Northern Ireland the smallest at £9bn. The best performer in percentage terms was London, with Yorkshire & The Humber falling by 6.3%.

There was an increase in the annual import value in London along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The capital’s imports increased by 12% or 8bn to £73bn which was 15% of the UK total.

The biggest regional importer was the SE at £98bn and Northern Ireland was the smallest at £8bn. In percentage terms London added 12% compared with Scotland which reduced imports by 7%.

The USA was London’s largest export market with miscellaneous manufactured articles the best export. Most of the capital’s imported goods came from China with machinery and transport equipment the biggest import.


This month the ONS published data on regional services imports for 2017. The biggest component of services imported into the UK was £51bn of travel. This was 28% of the £181bn UK total imports of services.

London imported £60bn of services value in 2017 of which £15bn was finance activities. The biggest importer of services was London with Northern Ireland importing £1.6bn.

At a local level, the largest importer of non-travel services into the UK was Camden and City of London at £14.5bn, almost double the next largest importer which was Westminster at £7.9bn. Of the 167 local areas, the Western Isles of Scotland imported the least amount, £21m, with Anglesey next at £31m.

As stated above, in the capital the City imported £14.5bn of non-travel services compared with £219m in Barnet.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed London exporting £117bn of services which compared with Northern Ireland at £2.9bn.

Other data

The ONS has also published the latest regional construction sector data to December 2019 which again reflects Brexit uncertainty rather than Covid 19 turmoil. Compared with the previous quarter all parts of the UK recorded a decline with London posting a 1.8% drop to £9bn.

The biggest decrease in the UK was 4.6% in the West Midlands; the SE was best with a 0.9% fall. Within construction though 6540 new houses were completed in the capital, an increase of 20% on the previous quarter.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the capital was 12,000 higher at 218,000 between December and February; the uplift of 0.2% took the rate to 4.5%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5% with the NE the highest at 5.6%, the UK rate was 4%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80.1% which compared with 76.7% in London where 4.7m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

London’s average property price increased over the month by 0.2% to £476,972. The uplift took the annual increase to 2.3%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%.