Imports of goods and services to the UK surged 5.8 percent to an all-time high of GBP 56.0 billion in March from GBP 53.0 billion in the previous month. The sharp increase was due to an 8.1 percent jump in purchases of goods, led by fuels, food beverages & tobacco, and manufactured goods; while imports of services dropped 0.3 percent. Among trading partners, imports of goods from the EU grew 5.8 percent, mainly from Germany (4.6 percent), the Netherlands (5.1 percent), France (4.7 percent), Belgium & Luxembourg (2.9 percent) and Spain (6 percent). In addition, purchases from non-EU countries rebounded sharply by 11.3 percent, as imports increased the most from Norway (72.6 percent), the US (8.3 percent), China (1.2 percent) and Japan (12.2 percent).
Exports went up at a softer 2.2 percent to GBP 52.9 billion in March from GBP 51.8 billion in the previous month, due to higher sales of goods (4.4 percent), mainly fuels and manufactured goods. Exports of services, however, dropped 0.4 percent. Among major trading partners, exports of goods to the EU advanced 4.9 percent, as sales increased mainly to France (6 percent), Ireland (8.7 percent), Italy (5.1 percent) and Spain (11.1 percent). Also, sales to non-EU countries grew 4 percent, namely to the US (7.1 percent), Hong Kong (8.7 percent), Switzerland (22.9 percent) and South Korea (65.2 percent).
In the first quarter of the year, the trade deficit narrowed GBP 0.7 billion to GBP 6.9 billion, due mainly to falling goods imports from non-EU countries.