By Francesco Guarascio
BRUSSELS -European Union exports to Britain rose in June after a volatile start to the country’s first year outside the single market, while the bloc’s exports to the rest of the world dropped slightly in the same month.
The EU statistics office Eurostat said on Friday seasonally adjusted exports to Britain increased by 4.7% in June on the month, whereas imports from the UK were “nearly unchanged” and the bloc’s exports to other countries dropped 0.6%.
The month-on-month rise in exports to Britain followed a plunge, surge and second drop earlier this year, which were also recorded in imports, as firms adapted to new trade requirements after Brexit. The EU’s trade with the rest of the world has remained largely stable in the first half of the year.
Seasonally-adjusted exports to Britain remained below the levels of the last months of 2020 in June but were higher than June 2020 when COVID restrictions were stricter, Eurostat figures showed.
On the year, non adjusted figures showed that the 27-country bloc recorded a 22.3% increase in exports in June for a total volume of 188.3 billion euros ($221.1 billion), and a 29.6% rise in imports resulting in a trade surplus of 14.8 billion euros, down from 20 billion euros in June 2020.
The smaller euro zone, which comprises 19 of the 27 EU members, recorded a nearly 22% increase of exports and a rise of almost 17% in imports on the month which resulted in a 18.1 billion euros surplus in June from 7.5 billion euros in May. In June 2020, the euro zone surplus was 20 billion euros.
In the first half of the year, EU imports of goods from Britain were nearly 20% below their levels in the same period of 2020 and in June and May were also lower than volumes recorded at the end of last year, Eurostat data showed.
The figures were at odds with data released on Thursday by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) which showed British exports to the European Union in May and June exceeded their levels immediately before it left the single market at the start of this year, excluding volatile trade in precious metals.
The discrepancy is partly due to a change in the way Eurostat calculates trade with Britain after Brexit.
When Britain was still part of the EU’s single market, all goods which moved from Britain to an EU member state were treated as British exports.
But since the start of the year, goods which had an origin outside Britain – China for example, are now treated as imports from that country, rather than from Britain.
“Statistics Eurostat publishes for 2021 are not on the same basis as statistics for previous years,” the ONS said last month.
“The larger falls seen in the Eurostat data over this time period will reflect not only changes in trade, but also the fact that imports are being recorded as being from different countries than was previously the case,” it added.
Eurostat agreed with this interpretation of its data.
In the first half of this year, exports to Britain rose by 5.5% compared with the same period last year, leading to an EU trade surplus with the country of 69.6 billion euros in June, Eurostat said.
($1 = 0.8514 euros)