The State of Britain

Welsh exports increase with Germany the country’s largest market, the construction sector dips and Anglesey and the Western Isles import the least services 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 Wales along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. Welsh exports increased by 3% or £516m to £17.7bn which was 5% of the UK total.  The increase took Wales above Yorkshire & The Humber to ninth in the UK rankings.

The leading regional exporter remained the SE at £46bn with Northern Ireland the smallest at £9bn. The best performer in percentage terms was London which was up by 17.2% with Yorkshire & The Humber falling by 6.3%.

There was a decrease in the annual import value in Wales along with five of the 12 UK ‘regions’. Welsh imports fell by 1.3% or 233m to £18bn which was 4% 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% to imports compared with Scotland which reduced imports by 7%.

Germany was Wales’s largest export market with machinery & transport equipment the best export. Most of Wales’s imported goods 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.

Wales imported £5bn of services value in 2017 of which £2bn was travel. The leading importer of services was London at £60bn 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.

In Wales, Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan imported £556m of non-travel services compared with Anglesey.

The data on services exports was released by the ONS last year which showed Wales exported £8bn of services. London exported the most services at £117bn 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 Wales posting a 4.5% drop to £1.7bn. The biggest decrease in the UK was 4.6% in the West Midlands; the SE was best with a 0.9% fall.

More pre-pandemic data from the ONS showed unemployment in the country was 10,000 higher at 56,000 between December and February; the uplift of 0.7% was the biggest in the UK and took the rate to 3.7%. Northern Ireland had the lowest rate of 2.5% with 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 74% in Wales where 1.5m are employed; the UK rate was 76.6%.

Welsh average property prices increased the most in the UK over the month by 1.2% to £164,435. The uplift took the annual increase to 3.4%, the highest in the UK. In comparison, UK prices dropped by 0.6% to £230,332 during February, an annual growth rate of 1.1%.