The State of Britain

The USA the region’s largest export market, Southend-on-Sea imports £83m of services, £3bn less than Hertfordshire, and EE house prices drop the most in the UK

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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 the EE along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The EE’s exports increased by 2.4% or £675m to £29bn which was 8% of the UK total.  

The biggest regional exporter remained the SE with £46bn with Northern Ireland the smallest at £9bn. The best performer in percentage terms was London which added 17% with Yorkshire & The Humber falling by 6.3%.

There was a decrease in the annual import value in the EE along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The EE’s imports decreased by 4.3% or 2bn to £45bn which was 9% 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 USA was the EE’s largest export market with machinery & transport equipment the best export. Most of the EE’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 EE imported £15bn 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 EE, Hertfordshire imported £3bn of non-travel services compared with £83m in Southend-on-Sea.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed the EE exporting £17bn 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 EE posting a 1.8% drop to £4.2bn.

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 5980 new houses were completed in the EE, an increase of 10% on the previous quarter.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 8,000 higher at 114,000 between December and February; the uplift of 0.3% took the rate to 3.5%. 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 78.2% in the EE where 3.1m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

The EE’s average property price decreased over the month by 0.7% to £286,869. The fall took the annual drop to 1%, the biggest in the UK. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%.