Fewer goods, more services to the UK in 2021

Hallway at flower auction full of flower trolleys
© Hollandse Hoogte / Harold Versteeg
In 2021, Dutch goods exports to the United Kingdom amounted to 40.5 billion euros. This is 21 percent less than in the pre-pandemic year 2019, when the UK was still part of the European Union. Domestic exports grew by 20 percent relative to 2019. Re-exports and quasi-transit trade combined fell by nearly half. At the same time, exports of services increased by 13 percent to 29 billion euros. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the basis of provisional figures.

Re-exports and quasi-transit trade concern flows of foreign goods that are transported to other countries via the Netherlands. Since the UK’s departure from the EU, such re-export and quasi-transit flows from the Netherlands to the UK have decreased considerably.

Goods exports to the United Kingdom
JaarDomestic exports (bn euros)Re-exports (bn euros)Outbound quasi-transit trade (bn euros)
* Provisional figures

Strong growth of domestic exports mainly due to higher prices

In 2021, the UK’s export share in total Dutch domestic exports stood at 7.6 percent, versus 7.2 percent in 2019. This makes the UK the third largest export destination for domestically produced goods, after Germany and Belgium.

Dutch-manufactured goods accounted for 61 percent of total goods exports to the UK last year. In 2020, the Dutch economy earned approximately 55.6 eurocents from every euro of UK-bound exports.

Of the seven main product categories specified, the largest two are manufactured goods and food and beverages, each with a share of 19 percent. Between 2019 and 2021, the value of food and beverage exports remained virtually unchanged at 4.7 billion euros. The UK continued to be the most important market for Dutch meat and fruit and vegetables, after Germany. At the same time, exports of manufactured goods grew by a third, to 4.6 billion euros. This increase was partly due to higher prices for metals. Exports of chemical products were worth 4.5 billion euros. The rise was partly due to increased plastic exports.

Exports of machinery and equipment rose by three quarters. Dutch manufacturers mainly sold more computers and specialised machinery in the UK. In 2021, exports of mineral fuels rose exclusively on account of higher fuel prices. In terms of volume, the export of petrol, diesel and kerosene to the UK was significantly lower. Exports of raw materials and natural products rose above average due to selling higher volumes at higher prices. Dutch manufacturers of passenger cars and lorries, on the other hand, exported less to the UK in 2021 compared to 2019. Exports of transport equipment declined by 22 percent as a result.

Re-exports and quasi-transit trade declining

Since the UK left the EU, their trade relationship has changed. The decline in re-exports and quasi-transit trade to the UK is partly the effect of diverted commodity flows from Asia. High-tech goods, as well as medicines and clothing, were previously shipped to the UK via the Netherlands, among other countries. It is likely that these goods are now imported directly by the UK. In 2021, re-exports to the UK declined by 6 billion relative to 2019, to 13.2 billion euros. Outbound quasi-transit trade fell by over 9 billion to 2.5 billion euros last year.

The economic contribution of re-exports in 2020 is estimated at 14.8 cents for every euro of exports. Quasi-transit trade hardly contributes to Dutch GDP.

Exports to the United Kingdom by product category
ProductDomestic exports (bn euros)Re-exports (bn euros)Transit trade (bn euros)
Food and beverages4.71.20.1
Manufactured goods4.64.00.2
Chemical products4.51.80.8
Machinery and appliances4.25.00.8
Mineral fuels3.10.60.0
Raw materials and natural products2.30.30.0
Transport equipment1.40.40.5
Food and beverages4.71.60.3
Manufactured goods3.55.30.8
Chemical products3.92.45.0
Machinery and appliances2.47.54.0
Mineral fuels2.61.50.0
Raw materials and natural products1.70.50.0
Transport equipment1.80.41.5
Food and beverages4.71.60.3
Manufactured goods3.44.50.9
Chemical products3.52.44.1
Machinery and appliances2.07.65.8
Mineral fuels2.20.90.0
Raw materials and natural products1.40.30.0
Transport equipment1.50.30.3
* Provisional figures

More business services, less travel

In 2021, the Netherlands exported 29 billion euros worth of services to the UK, 58 percent more than in 2015 and 13 percent more than in 2019. Exports of transport services and services such as telecommunication, computer and information services were up considerably compared to 2015 and 2019. Relative to 2015, in 2021 exports of financial services to the UK were 3.4 times higher. Other business services (including legal and accounting services) were by far the most important service export category in 2021 with a value of 9.8 billion euros. Expenditure by British tourists and business travellers during their stay in the Netherlands still amounted to only slightly over 0.2 billion euros. This is 86 percent less than in 2019, before Brexit took effect and before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2015, British travellers still spent 1.0 billion euros in the Netherlands.

Service exports to the United Kingdom by type of service 1)
JaarTransport services (bn euros)Travel (bn euros)Financial services (bn euros)Telecommunication, computer and information services (bn euros)Other business services (bn euros)Other services (bn euros)
* Provisional figures 1)The figures for 2015-2019 are based on a provisional retrospective calculation.