Find out about the data we publish, our policies and methodologies, and resources to help you make 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 import and export values, weights and quantities at detailed product and partner country level. Port information is also available for OTS, where data is sourced from customs declarations.
You can also explore and customise detailed trade data - dating from 1996 to the latest monthly release - by using the interactive data tables on this website.
If you need a very large amount of data, you can download bulk datasets to explore using your own analytical or database software.
Check our release calendar to find out when data is expected to be published, and register for email alerts.
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
Up to 31 December 2020, UK to EU export statistics were collected via the Intrastat statistical survey, which required traders to declare the value and volume of commodities exported to EU Member States within the relevant month of physical goods movement.
For goods moving from 1 January 2021, GB to EU export statistics are compiled direct from customs export declarations made according to the requirements of the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Act. The customs declaration requirements are more complex than the single monthly aggregated Intrastat return, and can result in differences between dates of declaration and actual movement of the goods out of the country.
The Overseas Trade Statistics compilation methodology has relied upon the acceptance date of the customs export declaration for its inclusion within the relevant month of account, rather than the declared physical movement date used from the Intrastat survey.
Intrastat survey returns will, however, continue to be collected for goods exported from Northern Ireland to the EU, under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol (opens in a new tab).
Both the GB to EU customs export declaration data and NI Intrastat export (dispatch) data will be incorporated into the overall UK to EU export dataset.
As a result of the changes and differences outlined above, there was a break in the timeseries for published UK to EU export statistics from January 2021.
UK imports from EU
UK imports from EU statistics will not be impacted by any change in 2021. The Intrastat survey continued to operate for all UK (GB and NI) imports (arrivals) from the EU, to mitigate the effects of staging customs controls, and to comply with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
However, from 1 January 2022, Intrastat only applied for movements of goods between Northern Ireland and the European Union (EU) (opens in a new tab). Statistics on movements to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) from the EU have been compiled directly from customs import declarations.
Both the EU to GB customs import declaration data and NI Intrastat import (arrivals) data are incorporated into the overall EU to UK import dataset.
As announced in the Borders Control Statement (UIN HLWS473) (opens in a new tab) on 15 December 2021, the Government extended the current arrangements for moving goods from the island of Ireland to Great Britain for as long as discussions on the Protocol are ongoing.
These temporary arrangements enable Irish traders to continue relying on staged customs controls for the foreseeable future. While these measures are in place, import statistics for trade between GB and Ireland are reported as declared and may not reflect the period in which the goods have been traded.
As a result of the changes and differences outlined above, there was a break in the timeseries for published EU to UK import statistics from 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 trade data collected by HMRC with 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, which 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 includes a number of trade estimates or adjustments. This 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.
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 numbers that help you to identify and define the type of 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).
Commodity codes may also have a second quantity, known as supplementary units. The supplementary unit can refer to square metres, litres, grams or 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 from which the goods were exported 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. Prior to 2021 this was only with non-EU countries. GB to EU export data is available by port from January 2021; and EU to GB imports will be available by port from January 2022.
Legislative changes in May 2016 means that fully comprehensive port data for non-EU trade was no longer possible. This is due to changes in legislation surrounding 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 supply ‘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 method 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. Whereas, 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 resulted from EU Exit, these are described in the data sources section of this document.
While we aim to publish as much detailed trade data as possible, we need to withhold some data to protect sensitive national and business interests.
For more details about suppressed data, read our policy on suppressions.
Where possible, we make available details on businesses that import or export goods with non-EU countries. Learn more about the trader details you can access.
From January 2005 onwards, non-monetary gold is included in Overseas Trade in Goods Statistics. This methodology change was introduced in 2014.
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 EU trade data on time
- goods were wrongly classified
- goods were valued incorrectly or provisionally
Overseas trade data is subject to routine monthly updates and non-routine ('unscheduled') corrections to data 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).
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 and 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 email@example.com and include the following details in your message:
- trade period
- trade flow (import. export, arrivals or dispatches)
- 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 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.