Exports to the UK generated almost €26 billion in 2020

© Hollandse Hoogte / Flip Franssen
In 2020 – the year of the coronavirus outbreak – the Netherlands earned 25.6 billion euros from goods and service exports to the UK. This is equivalent to 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) last year. It was still 3.5 percent (28.0 billion euros) one year previously. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of additional statistical research, commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.

Exports to the UK represented a decline in earnings of 9 percent. Firstly, this was on account of lower earnings from service exports (-11 percent); for example, the pandemic resulted in substantially less tourist spending by British visitors here. Secondly, earnings fell in domestic exports (-3 percent) and thirdly in re-exports (-9 percent) to the UK.

Last year’s total export earnings from trade with the United Kingdom were 2 percent higher than in 2015. The modest growth lags behind the development of global Dutch exports (up by 7 percent on 2015).

Dutch exports to the United Kingdom, export earnings
JaarDomestic exports (bn euros)Re-exports (bn euros)Service exports (bn euros)
* provisional figures

In terms of combined exports of goods and services, for many years the United Kingdom has been the Netherlands’ second-largest export destination, after Germany. Last year, exports to Germany and the UK yielded 47.6 and 25.6 billion euros respectively. The top five destinations further included Belgium (22.9 billion), France (17.4 billion) and the United States (15.5 billion euros). In 2020, the Netherlands earned a total of 253 billion euros in goods and service exports. The United Kingdom’s share in this total was 10.1 percent. In 2019, it occupied a share of 10.3 percent.

Wholesale trade and commission trade generate the highest export earnings

Dutch enterprises achieve their export earnings in trade with the UK either directly (as exporters) or indirectly (as suppliers to other companies which export to the UK).
Of all industries, wholesale trade and commission trade generated the highest earnings in exports to the UK: 3.6 billion euros in 2020. Over 43 percent was by re-exporting goods to the UK; more than one-third through domestic goods exports and 23 percent by service exports.

A full 6 out of the 10 industries earning the most from trade with the UK predominantly generate these earnings through service exports. These are holdings/management consultancies, IT services, temporary employment agencies, overland transport services, transport and storage services, and legal services/administration. The high share of service exports is also visible at macro level, with 55 percent of the export earnings from the UK generated through service exports. That share is significantly lower in total Dutch exports, namely approximately 40 percent.

Agriculture, the food industry and the chemical industry predominantly export domestically produced goods to the UK. The only industries where the bulk of export earnings come from re-exports are wholesale trade and commission trade.

Last year, the largest declines in export earnings were recorded in the travel agencies and travel operators industry (-333 million euros) and the wholesale trade and commission trade industry (-313 million euros).

Earnings from exports to the United Kingdom, 2020*
BedrijfstakDomestic goods (bn euros)Re-exports (bn euros)Services (bn euros)
Wholesale trade and
commission trade
Holdings and management consultancies0.2870.1471.778
IT services0.0990.0481.661
Temporary work agencies
and employment services
Overland transport0.1390.0950.603
Storage, transport services0.1260.0830.628
Food industry0.7790.0130.039
Chemical industry0.6460.0090.100
Legal services and administration0.1000.0410.559
* estimate, provisional figures

IT service exports strongly focused on the UK

Of the ten industries listed above, IT services depends most heavily on exports to the UK. In 2020, the UK’s share in total export earnings amounted to 14.6 percent. Exports of legal services and administration are also strongly focused on the UK (14.4 percent), just as those by holdings and management consultancies (13.1 percent).

As a percentage share in the total value added of an industry, the export earnings in the following industries are primarily derived from trade with the UK: IT services (8.5 percent), holdings and management consultancies (8.2 percent), and agriculture (7.6 percent).

Temporary employment agencies achieve a large chunk of their value added in the domestic market, which means their reliance on exports to the UK is less significant in total earnings: 4.8 percent.

Dependency on exports to the United Kingdom, 2020*
BedrijfstakUK's share in total export earnings of this industry (%)UK's export share in total value added of this industry (%)
IT services14.68.5
Legal services and administration14.45.3
Holdings and management consultancies13.18.2
Overland transport10.67.1
Storage, transport services10.57.3
Temporary work agencies
and employment services
Food industry9.06.2
Wholesale trade and commission trade8.45.6
Chemical industry7.67.3
* provisional figures

264 thousand full-time jobs related to exports to the United Kingdom

Data on employment induced by exports to the UK are available up to 2019 inclusive. In that year, a total of 264 thousand full-time jobs were related to this trade including 183 thousand male and 81 thousand female FTEs. This is 11 percent more than in 2015 (when it stood at 238 thousand FTEs). The number of full-time jobs rose relatively rapidly among women: 16 percent, versus 9 percent among men.

Employment related to exports to the United Kingdom
JaarMen ( x 1,000 FTEs)Women ( x 1,000 FTEs)