The dominant patterns of the UK’s international trade are clear from the data below and opposite. Germany is by far our leading trade partner within the European Union but in recent years the gap between the value of UK exports to Germany and imports from there has ballooned: in 2009 the deficit stood at about £15bn; by 2015 it had doubled. Similarly, although UK exports to China have shown healthy growth they remain about half the size of our imports.
But especially where manufacturing is concerned, the picture is complex: supply chains extend around the world and this makes international trade statistics difficult to interpret. For example, the UK’s total vehicle imports in the pie charts below include not only cars for sale here but also vehicle parts that will be processed in UK factories and then re-exported, either as finished vehicles or for further assembly elsewhere. Simple trade balances struggle to capture that story.
On the 17th of January 2017, Prospect hosted a roundtable discussion with the contributors to: Brexit Britain: the trade challenge. This report is designed to act as a guide for parliamentarians, officials and businesses with a stake in the UK’s changing relationship with the world following Brexit. The discussion was chaired by Tom Clark, Editor of Prospect. Participants included Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP, Miriam González and Vicky Pryce.
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