Skip to main content

UK Trade: December 23 data reveals decrease in both imports and exports whilst annual figures remain positive

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) recently released the latest trade figures for the UK. Here Richard Baigent, our International Trade Consultant, summarises the key statistics.

In December 2023, the value of goods imports in the UK decreased by £2.6 billion (5.4%). This decline was driven by reduced imports of fuels and affected imports from both EU and non-EU countries. Similarly, the value of goods exports decreased by £0.7 billion (2.2%), mainly due to lower exports to the EU.

However, there was positive news in terms of annual figures. Total imports of goods and services slightly fell in 2023, while total exports rose by £36.8 billion (4.6%). As a result, the total annual trade balance narrowed by £36.7 billion to a deficit of £53.0 billion.

It is important to note that recent shipping disruptions in the Red Sea did not have an impact on imports in December 2023. Data from the Weekly shipping indicators dataset shows a decrease in cargo and tanker ship visits, but this is attributed to the general slowdown in shipping during the festive period.

In terms of services, early estimates suggest a slight increase in imports and exports in December 2023. Imports of services rose by around £0.1 billion (0.3%), while exports also increased by £0.1 billion (0.2%). Price rises have affected trade in services recently, but in December 2023, there was little difference between trends in value and inflation-adjusted terms.

These figures provide a snapshot of the UK's trade performance and highlight the impact of various factors, including changes in imports and exports, fuel prices, and disruptions in shipping. It is important to continue monitoring these trends to understand the evolving dynamics of UK trade.

Clearly as the UK looks to grow its economy, inward Foreign Direct Investment and Exports of goods & services are key. Whilst the December 23 figures in isolation are concerning, the annual figures remain positive, with exports up and the UK’s trade deficit narrowing. The export of services is particularly important to keep an eye on as the UK is the 2nd largest exporter of services globally (after the USA), and services make up 80% of UK GDP.

How we can help

At Irwin Mitchell we have international desks covering all major markets, and a full offering across all economic sectors, as we look to support our clients' international grow plans and support clients / funds looking to inwardly invest into the UK.