The UK’s trade in goods with the European Union fell sharply over the last three years, especially at the end of 2020 as the Brexit transition period ended on 1 January.
According to the Office for National Statistics, total trade in goods with the EU, the sum of exports and imports, fell by 23.1% between the first quarter of 2018 and the first three months of 2021.
Exports fell by 24.0% over that timeframe and imports by 22.5%.
Total trade with countries from outside the bloc on the other hand only dipped by 0.8%.
In particular, total trade with the EU shrank by 20.3% between the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.
ONS said stockpiling ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period may have contributed to the drop.
Citing the results of the Business Insights and Conditions Survey, ONS added that “many businesses” had reported that the end of the transition period had posed a challenge to their activity – more so than the pandemic.
Only goods imports from China rose between the first quarter of 2018 and the first three months of 2021, by 59%.