Who does the UK trade with?

As the UK starts the process to remake its political and economic relationship with the European Union, the future trade relationships we will have with the EU and the rest of the world are a key talking point.

As a soon-to-be ex-member of the European Union, the UK will have to renegotiate its trade relationship with the remaining 27 partner countries, as well as with the entire world, as it no longer relies on the trading arrangements afforded by membership of the EU.

In the months since the June 23 referendum last year the UK Government has signalled it is looking to build new partnerships with countries like India, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

But what do we know about our trade with the world?

Explore the trade relationship between the UK and the rest of the world in our interactive map.

UK trade with the rest of the world, imports and exports, 1999 to 2015

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<iframe width="100%" height="800px" src="https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc390/worldmap/index.html" scrolling="no" frameborder="0"/>

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Trade overview

The EU countries are hugely important trade partners for the UK. In 2016, the EU1 accounted for 48% of goods exports from the UK, while goods imports from the EU were worth more than imports from the rest of the world combined.

For exports, trade in goods and services  with the EU has declined in proportion, from 55% of UK exports in 2000 to 44% of UK exports in 2015.

Most of the decline in the EU’s share of UK exports is due to goods, not services.

Explore the UK’s trade relationship with the EU and Rest of the World with our interactives.

UK Imports, 2015

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<iframe width="100%" height="800px" src="https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc390/treemap/imports.html" scrolling="no" frameborder="0"/>

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UK Exports, 2015


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<iframe width="100%" height="800px" src="https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc390/treemap/exports.html" scrolling="no" frameborder="0"/>

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47% of UK goods exports went to the EU in 2015, and 53% to the rest of the world. UK goods exports to the EU were worth £134 billion in 2015, or 7.2% of GDP.

Motor vehicles and parts is the largest product group by value of exports: the UK exported £16 billion of motor vehicles (and trailers)  to the EU in 2015. The next largest product group exported to the EU is chemicals and chemical products, £14 billion in 2015.

For services, 42% of UK services exports went to the EU in 2015.  These were worth £96 billion in 2015. Financial services contributed the most to services exports to the EU, £24 billion.

Love thy neighbour?

Trade relationships are usually stronger between neighbouring countries, and with countries with large economies. China and the US are large economies and are important UK trading partners even accounting for their distance from us.

However, distance is important. The value of the UK’s  trading relationship with Ireland is higher than the value of UK trade with Italy or Spain. Ireland is the UK’s neighbour, even though the total size of its economy is much smaller than Italy’s or Spain’s.

How does geography impact UK exports and imports  to the rest of the world?

UK Exports by distance from UK, 2015


To embed this interactive in your site use the following code:

<iframe width="100%" height="800px" src="https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc390/distance/export/index.html" scrolling="no" frameborder="0"/>

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UK Imports by distance from UK, 2015


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<iframe width="100%" height="800px" src="https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc390/distance/import/index.html" scrolling="no" frameborder="0"/>

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The UK runs a trade deficit (we import more than we export) with the biggest economies of the European Union.

When it comes to trade surpluses2(exporting more than we import), aside from the US , the UK has a trade surpluses with 108 territories, including  Ireland, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Brazil.
UK trade deficit and surplus by country, 2015

To embed this interactive in your site use the following code:

<iframe width="100%" height="800px" src="https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc390/in-out/index.html" scrolling="no" frameborder="0"/>

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The largest trade deficit is with Germany. In 2015 the UK imported £70bn in goods and services from Germany, and sold £49bn in goods and services.

Although the UK has a trade deficit with Germany and France, Germany, France and the Netherlands3are the second, third and fourth most important destinations for UK exports – even if the UK has a trade deficit with many countries, those countries are still important export markets.

Focus on the US

Similarly, although the UK has a trade surplus with the US, in 2015 11% of total imports came from the US, the second highest share after Germany.

The US is also the country from which the UK earns the most through trade. Exports to the US (£96bn) are higher than imports from the US (£59bn). So in 2015 the UK ran a trade surplus 4with the US of £37bn.

A recent report in the FT showed how for almost every category of goods exported, the EU was by far a bigger market than the US.

Explore how our trade relationship with the US has changed since 2003.

UK trade with the US and rest of the world, imports and exports, 1999 to 2015


To embed this interactive in your site use the following code:

<iframe width="100%" height="800px" src="https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc390/worldmap/index.html#sty=true&flow=flow1&period=16&fix=UK&fix2=US&view=0,-40,800,635" scrolling="no" frameborder="0"/>

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For more information, please contact: trade@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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