Covid hurt bilateral UK-Polish trade more than Brexit in 2020

BPCC’s Chief Advisor comments on 2020 UK-Polish trade

Bilateral trade in goods between the UK and Poland fell back last year compared to 2020, ending an unbroken run of growth going back to 2012. The Covid-19 lockdowns affected the UK economy worse than Poland’s. According to the Office of National Statistics, the value of UK goods exported to Poland fell by 14.1% (from £5.4 billion to £4.6 billion), whilst the value of Polish goods exported to the UK fell by only 4.3% (from £11.0 billion to £10.5 billion).

The approaching end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, which was to see the UK leaving the single European market and the Customs Union, led to large-scale stockpiling. In November 2020, the value of Polish goods exported to the UK exceeded £1 billion for the first time ever in a single month (£1.04 billion), and remained in excess of £1 billion in December 2020 (£1.01 billion). A similar ‘stockpiling spike’ was observed in the value of UK exports to Poland in those two months, though not reaching record levels (£424m and £441m respectively).

April saw the sharpest decline in bilateral trade, with values of goods sold in both countries showing significant month-on-month falls (UK to Poland 28.3% down on March 2020, Poland to UK down by12.2%). By August, exports from both countries had recovered to pre-lockdown levels.

The impact of the UK’s departure from the single European market and Customs Union will be seen in next month’s ONS trade figures, published on 12 March. However, the UK has yet to impose a full third-country regime on goods imported from the EU. On 1 April, full phytosanitary and veterinary controls will come into force on products from Poland entering the UK, while on 1 July the current simplified customs declarations will be replaced by full declarations made on entry. UK goods exported to the EU have been subject to the full rigour of third-country import procedures as on 1 January.