Find out about the data we publish, our policies, methodologies and resources. These will help you make the best use of our data.
About our data
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) collects a wide range of data on the UK's international trade in goods.
We publish this data as two National Statistics series:
- Overseas Trade in Goods Statistics (OTS) published monthly
- Regional Trade in Goods Statistics (RTS) published every 3 months
The published data includes the following at detailed product and partner country level:
- import and export values
- weights and quantities
Port information is also available for OTS, where data comes from customs declarations.
Using our data
We provide a range of prepared data tables (data goes back to the year 2000) on this site for you to explore.
You can also create and share your own with these tools:
- our Overseas custom data table (data goes back to 2000)
- our Regional custom data table (data goes back to 2013)
Check our release calendar to find out when data publication is scheduled. Sign up for our email alerts for a notification when we publish new data. You can also find out about methodology changes and other significant news.
Our data sources
Overseas trade statistics are compiled monthly, quarterly and annually using transaction information collected by HMRC. This includes commodity codes to classify goods being traded. Learn more about how goods are classified.
UK to EU exports
UK to EU export statistics were collected via the Intrastat statistical survey up until 31 December 2020. In this survey traders declared the following for exports to EU Member States within the relevant month of goods movement:
- value of commodities
- volume of commodities
Since 1 January 2021, Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales - excludes Northern Ireland) to EU export statistics have been compiled directly from customs export declarations. These are made according to the requirements of the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Act.
The customs declaration requirements are more complex than the monthly aggregated Intrastat return. They can result in differences between:
- dates of declaration
- actual movement of the goods out of the country.
The Overseas Trade Statistics compilation methodology relies on the customs export declaration's acceptance date for its inclusion within the relevant month. This is instead of the declared physical movement date entered in the Intrastat survey.
Intrastat survey returns are still used for goods exported from Northern Ireland to the EU. This is under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol (opens in a new tab).
Both the following are incorporated into the overall UK to EU export dataset:
- Great Britain to EU customs export declaration data
- Northern Ireland Intrastat export (dispatch) data
These changes have led to some inconsistencies in some UK to EU export data. It means you may find differences between data published before and after January 2021.
UK imports from EU
UK imports from EU statistics were not impacted by any change in 2021. The Intrastat survey continued for all UK (Great Britain and Northern Ireland) imports (arrivals) from the EU. This was to mitigate the effects of staged customs controls. It was also to comply with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Intrastat now covers goods movements between Northern Ireland and the European Union (EU) (opens in a new tab). Northern Ireland to EU exports have been collected through Intrastat since 1 January 2021. EU to Northern Ireland imports have been collected through Intrastat since 1 January 2022.
Statistics on movements to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales - excludes Northern Ireland) from the EU have been compiled directly from customs import declarations.
Both of the following are incorporated into the overall EU to UK import dataset:
- EU to Great Britain customs import declaration data
- Northern Ireland Intrastat import (arrivals) data
The Government extended the current arrangements for moving goods from the island of Ireland to Great Britain. This is for as long as discussions on the Protocol are ongoing.This is as announced in the Borders Control Statement (UIN HLWS473) (opens in a new tab) on 15 December 2021.
These temporary arrangements allow Irish traders to continue relying on staged customs control.
While these measures are in place, import statistics for trade between Great Britain and Ireland are reported as declared. This means they may not reflect the period in which the goods have been traded.
These changes have led to some inconsistencies in some EU to UK import data. It means you may find differences between data published before and after January 2022.
Businesses that move goods to or from the UK from non-EU countries must complete a Customs declaration. HMRC uses the details from these declarations to compile data on UK trade with non-EU countries.
Regional trade data is derived from the Overseas Trade in Goods Statistics (OTS). It provides a breakdown of imports and exports by regions of the UK, to other countries.
Regional Trade in Goods Statistics (RTS) data is compiled by merging the following data:
- trade data collected by HMRC
- employment data from the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR)
A business’ trade is allocated to a region based on the proportion of its employees employed in that region.
Regional data is released quarterly, and available by partner country and aggregated product.
The RTS uses the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) which classifies goods more broadly. It is not as detailed as the Overseas Trade Statistics.
Regional trade data is not available for some non-EU countries. This is to ensure business confidentiality.
EU trade data collected from Intrastat includes a number of trade estimates or adjustments, according to legislation. These can include:
- Below Threshold Trade Allocations (BTTA) - this data is added at SITC division (2-digit) level - download an aggregate table detailing these estimates (XLSX: 3MB)
- Non Response - the total value of trade missing where business have not submitted their Intrastat data in full or on time
- Net Mass - estimates of net mass where businesses have not supplied this data
Regional trade statistics do not include these estimates. They also exclude trade in non-monetary gold.
Please note that BTTA data are estimates. They are based on VAT data for trade carried out by organisations working at levels below the Intrastat thresholds.
Key terms and definitions
Here is a glossary of terms used in our trade data, as well as information you should know before using the data.
Commodity codes are internationally recognised reference numbers used to identify and define goods. To learn more about commodity codes, read how goods are classified.
Generally, goods will be declared with a weight (net mass), which will be in kilograms (kg).
About a third of Intrastat goods do not require a weight declaration - so these are estimated. A small number of goods will have no weight - for example, electricity.
Commodity codes may also have a second quantity, known as supplementary units. These can refer to:
- square metres
- another unit of measure
It is important to be aware of this when viewing data for high-level commodity groups.
Find details of the codes used for supplementary units in the UK Trade Tariff tool (opens in a new tab).
Country of dispatch or destination
For goods entering the UK, country data is based on the country of dispatch. This means the country the goods were exported from to come to the UK. This may be different from the:
- country of origin
- country of manufacture
- last country from which the goods were shipped to the UK
For goods leaving the UK, country data is based on the country of destination. This means the final country to which the goods are being exported.
Overseas trade data is collected and published monthly.
You can customise the data tables on our website to show any combination of months in a calendar year. You can find quarterly and annual data in our prepared datasets.
Port data is only available for UK trade where the source data is the customs declaration. Before 2021 this was only with non-EU countries.
Great Britain to EU export data is available by port from January 2021. EU to Great Britain imports are available by port from January 2022 onwards.
Legislative changes in May 2016 meant that fully comprehensive port data for non-EU trade was no longer possible. This was due to changes in legislation around declaration requirements when goods are moving into or out of a customs warehouse.
Port data will still be available for businesses that submit either:
- full customs declarations for entry into customs warehouses
- voluntary ‘place of clearance’ on ex-warehouse supplementary declarations
Place of clearance
'Place of clearance' is where the goods are available for customs clearance processes.This will normally be the port at which goods entered or left the UK.
However, for a small number of items, the place of clearance will be a different port or an approved inland location. For example, goods may enter the UK at one airport but transit to another airport for clearance.
Trade preferences reduce or remove rates of duty (tariffs) on imports from eligible developing countries into the UK. To learn more about preference read about trade regimes.
Trade statistics methodology
You can learn about the methods we use to produce the overseas and regional trade statistics in our methodology papers (opens in a new tab).
Changes to methodology
From May 2016, we changed the methods we use to compile our non-EU trade in goods statistics from the 'general trade' to the 'special trade' system. This change was due to legislation affecting how goods are declared to Customs.
General trade records the physical movement of goods to and from the UK. Special trade excludes those goods placed in customs warehouses (where duty and VAT have not yet been paid). So special trade can be thought of as goods that are in ‘free circulation’.
From January 2021, there were a number of methodological changes as a result of the UK leaving the EU. These are described in the 'Our data sources' section of this page.
We aim to publish as much detailed trade data as possible. However, we need to withhold some data to protect sensitive national and business interests.
For more details about suppressed data, read our policy on suppressions.
Find out about current suppressions to commodity codes.
Where possible, we make available details on businesses that import or export goods. Learn more about the trader details you can access.
From January 2005 onwards, non-monetary gold is included in Overseas Trade in Goods Statistics.
Revisions to data
Published data is provisional for up to 18 months after it is published. The data can be revised and corrected during this time. This can be because:
- businesses did not report their Intrastat data on time
- goods were wrongly classified
- goods were valued incorrectly or provisionally
Overseas trade data is subject to both:
- routine monthly updates
- non-routine ('unscheduled') corrections to data
This is in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics (opens in a new tab).
For more details about types of revisions and how we handle them, read our revisions policy (opens in a new tab).
Low value consignments
For trade in goods collected from custom declarations (UK trade with Non-EU and GB trade with EU), imports and exports of an individual value of £873 or less are aggregated under SITC group 931 – ‘Special transactions and commodities not classified according to kind’, and classified to a single commodity code – 99500000. This trade is not analysed either by commodity or country. Statistics for individual commodities are therefore deficient by these amounts.
For Intrastat (Northern Ireland trade with the EU), transactions (that is, invoice lines) with a value of £175 or less can be aggregated and classified to a single commodity code (99500000).
How we maintain quality in trade data
We carry out extensive checks on our trade data before and after it is published. Find out about:
- the UK and international quality standards we follow
- differences with trade statistics of other countries
- how to challenge published data
We produce our overseas trade in goods statistics in line with:
- the UK Statistical Authority's Code of Practice for Statistics (opens in a new tab)
- the UK Government Statistical Service's guidelines for measuring data quality (opens in a new tab)
- other internationally-agreed statistical guidance and standards
Asymmetries in trade data
Asymmetries are differences between:
- a country's published trade statistics
- those of its trading partners
In theory, the value of the UK's exports to one country should broadly match the value of UK imports reported by the other country. However, there are a number of reasons why they do not match. Download an overview of asymmetries (PDF: 197KB).
You can find reports on trade asymmetries on GOV.UK (opens in a new tab).
How to challenge published data
If you think the published trade data is incorrect, you can contact HMRC Trade Statistics to challenge the data.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following details in your message:
- trade period
- trade flow (import or export)
- partner country
- the full details of the commodity
- the specific field value you want to query
- possible alternative data (if you have this)
- why you believe the data is incorrect
If we find the published data is incorrect, we will publish the revised data for all users. This is in line with our policy on revisions to data (opens in a new tab) and the Code of Practice for Statistics.
Other trade data
You can access international trade data from a number of publicly available official sources.
- UK balance of payment statistics (opens in a new tab) provided by the Office of National Statistics
- the COMEXT database (opens in a new tab) provided by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union
- Eurostat international trade in goods publications (opens in new tab)
- the United Nations' Commodity Based Trade Database (ComTrade) (opens in a new tab)
You can also access UK trade data from commercial data retailers.