- Main points
- Things you need to know about this release
- The deficit in trade in goods and services widened in the 3 months to May 2017
- The deficit in trade in goods and services widened by £1.0 billion to £3.1 billion in May 2017
- Export and import prices and volumes of goods fall in May 2017 as the value of sterling increases
- What are the revisions to trade values since last month?
- Links to related statistics
- Quality and methodology
- Between the 3 months to February 2017 and the 3 months to May 2017, the total UK trade (goods and services) deficit widened from £6.9 billion to £8.9 billion.
- The widening of the trade deficit in the 3 months to May 2017 reflects a higher rise in imports than the rise in exports of goods, in particular, transport equipment (cars, aircraft and ships), oil and electrical machinery from non-EU countries; a decrease in exports of services also contributed.
- Between the 3 months to February 2017 and the 3 months to May 2017, the total UK trade (goods and services) excluding erratics deficit widened from £8.6 billion to £9.3 billion.
- The total UK trade (goods and services) deficit widened by £1.0 billion between April and May 2017 to £3.1 billion, following a narrowing in April 2017; this reflects an increase in imports of goods on the month following a decrease in April 2017.
- Import prices increased by 0.5% in the 3 months to May 2017 whereas export prices remained flat; however, excluding the impact of falling oil prices, import and export prices grew by 1.0% and 0.5% respectively.
- Since the last UK trade release, the total trade deficit for Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2017 has been revised down by £0.4 billion to £8.8 billion due to revisions to trade in services in the period.
On 15 June 2017, the National Statistician announced that pre-release access to Office for National Statistics publications would stop with effect from 1 July 2017.
This is, therefore, the first UK trade release where ministers and other officials did not receive access to the information prior to publication. For more information please see the announcement.
Trade is measured through both imports and exports of goods and or services. Trade in goods reports the level of import and export activity in general merchandise, goods for processing, repairs on goods, goods procured in port and non-monetary gold.
Trade in services covers import and export activity across 12 service sectors. The UK trade balance is the headline figure and calculated as total exports fewer imports in both goods and services.
The trade balance reflects the overall net position of the UK, describing whether the UK exports more than it imports (a trade surplus) or whether it imports more than it exports (a trade deficit).
Unless otherwise stated, all trade values discussed in this release are at current prices.
The time series dataset also includes chained volume measures (series for which the effects of inflation have been removed), and these are indexed to form the volume series presented in the publication tables.
Data are supplied by over 30 sources, including several administrative sources; HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) covering trade in goods is the largest.
For trade in services, data are less timely than trade in goods estimates and sourced mainly from survey data and a variety of administrative sources.
The services data are processed quarterly, so monthly forecasts are made to provide a complete trade total. This means latest months are uncertain.
Trade statistics for any one month can be erratic. For that reason, we recommend comparing the latest 3 months against the preceding 3 months and the same 3 months of the previous year.
Oil and other “erratic” commodities can make a large contribution to trade in goods but often mask the underlying trend in the export or import values due to their volatility.
The ‘erratics’ series includes ships, aircraft, precious stones, silver and non-monetary gold. Therefore, we also publish data exclusive of these commodities, which may provide a better guide to the emerging trade picture.
This release has a revisions period back to January 2017 for trade in services and revisions for trade in goods to April 2017.
This means that we have incorporated additional data for trade in goods for these periods. This revisions period is consistent with the National Accounts revisions policy.
Due to a series of errors during 2014, the UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade on 14 November 2014.
We have now responded to all of the specific requirements of the reassessment of UK trade and are in the final stages of providing evidence to the Authority.
We are undertaking a program of improvements to UK trade statistics in line with the UK trade development plan that will also address anticipated future demands.
While delivering against this plan, we will continue to work with the Office for Statistics Regulation team to regain National Statistics status for UK trade statistics.
We welcome feedback on this development plan.
Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.1.0.