The State of Britain

Leeds imports nine times more services than York, Y&H’s exports decrease the most in the UK and the region’s unemployment rate ticks up

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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 a decrease in annual export value in Y&H along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. Y&H’s exports decreased by 6.3% or £1.1bn to £17bn which was 8% of the UK total. The fall meant that Wales moved past Y&H to ninth in the UK rankings.

The biggest regional exporter was the SE of England at £46.5bn and Northern Ireland was the smallest at £9bn. The best performer in percentage terms was London which added 17%, Y&H was the worst.

There was a decrease in annual import value in Y&H along with three of the 12 UK ‘regions’. Y&H’s imports decreased by 4.8% or 1.6bn to £32bn which was 7% of the UK total.

The leading 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 Netherlands was Y&H’s largest export market with machinery & transport equipment the best export. Most of Y&H’s imported goods also came from the Netherlands with minerals & fuels the biggest import.


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

Y&H imported £10bn of services value in 2017 of which £4bn was travel. The biggest importer of services was London at £60bn with Northern Ireland importing £1.6bn.

At a local level, the biggest 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.

In Y&H, Leeds imported £1.8bn of non-travel services compared with £201m in York.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed Y&H exporting £9.6bn of services which compared with London at £117bn and 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 Y&H posting a 2.5% drop to £3.2bn. 

The biggest decrease in the UK was 4.6% in the West Midlands; the SE was best with a 0.9% fall. Within this though 3820 new houses were completed in Y&H, the increase of 4% on the previous quarter was the smallest in the UK.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 11,000 higher at 128,000 between December and February; the uplift of 0.4% took the rate to 4.7%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5%, the NE the highest at 5.6% with the UK rate at 4%.

The South East had the highest employment rate at 80.1% which compared with 73.5% in Y&H where 3.5m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

Y&H’s average property price decreased over the month by 1% to £162,334. The drop took the annual increase to 1.9%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%.