The State of Britain

Scottish exports overtake the WM, the regional construction sector declines and the WM unemployment rate only beats the NE

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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 the annual export value in the WM along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The WM’s exports decreased by 5.5% or £1.8bn to £32bn which was 9% of the UK total.  The fall meant that Scotland moved past the WM to third in the UK rankings.

The leading regional exporter was the SE of England at £46.5bn with Northern Ireland the smallest at £9bn. The best performer in percentage terms was London which added 17% compared with Yorkshire & the Humber which dropped by 6%.

There was a decrease in the annual import value in the WM along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The WM’s imports decreased by 3.7% or 1.4bn to £36bn which was 8% of the UK total.

The largest 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 the WM’s largest export market with machinery & transport equipment the best export. Most of the WM’s imported goods came from Germany 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.

The WM’s imported £11bn of services value in 2017 of which £4bn was travel. The largest 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 the WM, Birmingham imported £1.5bn of non-travel services compared with £147m in Shropshire.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed the WM’s exporting £11.5bn 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 the WM’s posting a 4.6% drop to £4bn, the biggest decrease in the UK; the SE was best with a 0.9% fall. Within this though 4910 new houses were completed in the WM, an increase of 11% on the previous quarter.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 15,000 higher at 142,000 between December and February; the uplift of 0.5% took the rate to 4.8%, the second worst in the UK. 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 75.3% in the WM’s where 2.8m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

The WM’s average property price decreased over the month by 1.3% to £198,658. The drop took the annual increase to 0.7%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%.