The State of Britain

The USA the SW’s largest export market but volumes decline, Swindon imports the most services and an increase in unemployment sees the region overtaken by the SE

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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 SW along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The SW’s exports decreased by 1.1% or £243m to £21.2bn which was 6% of the UK total.  

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% with Yorkshire & The Humber falling by 6.3%

There was an increase in the annual import value in the SW along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. The SW’s imports increased by 0.9% or 206m to £24bn which was 6% 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 SW’s largest export market with machinery & transport equipment the best export. Most of the SW’s imported goods also came from the USA 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 SW imported £10bn of services value in 2017 of which £3bn was travel. The largest importer of services was London at £60bn with Northern Ireland importing £1.6bn.

At a local level, the leading 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 SW, Swindon imported £1.1bn of non-travel services compared with £63m in Torbay.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed the SW exporting £13bn 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 SW posting a 1.3% drop to £3.4bn.

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 5620 new houses were completed in the SW, an increase of 12% on the previous quarter.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the region was 10,000 higher at 91,000 between December and February; the uplift of 0.3% took the rate to 3.1%. 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 79.4% in the SW where 2.8m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

The SW’s average property price increased over the month by 0.5% to £258,044. The uplift took the annual increase to 1.1%. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%