Goods imports from the UK up by 14 percent

In the first half of 2021, the import value of Dutch goods trade with the United Kingdom amounted to 11.3 billion euros. This is 14 percent more than in the previous year. The value of total goods imports grew by 17 percent, causing the share of imports from the UK to drop slightly to 4.6 percent. This is evident from provisional figures on international goods trade, released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

Imports from the United Kingdom have not yet returned to the level of 2019, when COVID-19 and lower oil prices were not a factor. In addition, the exit of the UK from the European Union and the accompanying new trading conditions between these regions which came into force on 1 January 2021 have changed trade patterns. This makes comparison between the different periods difficult. Furthermore, highly fluctuating oil and gas prices affected the share of petroleum and natural gas in the total import value. In the first half of 2021, this share stood at 29 percent, versus 41 percent two years previously.

Goods imports from the United Kingdom, January-June
Periode  Goods imports (bn euros)

More goods from Asia enter the Netherlands via the UK

The changed trading relationship between the EU and the UK may have led to a shift in existing flows of goods. Since the beginning of this year, goods such as computers and clothing, mostly produced in Asia, also go directly from Asia to the UK. Previously, they often went via the Netherlands. The Netherlands is now also importing a part of these goods from the UK. As a result, imports of (medical) instruments and devices and imports of plastics have grown substantially, by 210 and 179 million euros respectively.

In the first half of 2021, the import value of petroleum and natural gas from the UK was 113 million euros higher than one year previously. These increased imports are exclusively the result of significantly higher purchase prices; the import volume of crude oil was 9 percent lower year-on-year. In total, the volume of crude oil imported into the Netherlands was virtually the same as in 2020 (-2 percent). However, import volumes of refined fuels such as petrol and diesel from the UK were down by several dozen percent relative to the same period in 2020.

Main increases in goods imports from the United Kingdom, January-June 2021
ProductIncrease in imports (year-on-year change, million euros)
(Medical) instruments and devices210
Plastics in primary form179
Inorganic chemicals149
Petroleum and natural gas113
Computers and office appliances108
Modems, routers, speakers, etc.89
Mining machinery and excavators88
Office supplies83

Fewer medicines from the UK

Although Dutch imports of medicines increased by 4 percent in the first six months of 2021, fewer medicines were imported from the UK (down by 361 million euros or 58 percent). Imports of chips and semiconductors were substantially lower as well. The import of goods that require swift logistic handling, such as fruit and vegetables and meat, fell by 59 percent and 61 percent respectively.

Main decreases in goods imports from the United Kingdom, January-June 2021
ProductDecrease in imports (year-on-year change, million euros)
Chips, semiconductors, etc.-132
Fruit and vegetables-72
Photographic products-60
Electromedical devices-36
Passenger cars-34
Animal oils and fats-30

EU goods imports from the UK down by 21 percent

During the first five months of 2021, the 27 EU member states imported 54 billion euros worth of goods (including transit goods) from the UK. This is a year-on-year decline of 21 percent. Imports of petroleum products shrank by 38 percent, despite higher sales prices.