On 28 July 2020, Lord Rooker is due to ask the Government “what is the current balance of trade between the United Kingdom and Russia”. 

Russia: Total trade 

In 2019, the UK had a balance of trade deficit with Russia. This means the value of UK imports from Russia exceeded the value of its exports to Russia. The total value of exports to Russia was £5,814 million. The total value of imports was £9,771 million. A breakdown of the UK’s trade with Russia in 2019 is shown in table 1 below. The trade deficit was caused by the UK’s deficit in its goods trade. The UK had a surplus in its services trade with Russia. 

Table 1: UK trade with Russia, 2019 

  Total trade (£millions)  Trade in goods (£millions)  Trade in services (£millions) 
Exports  £5,814  £2,766  £3,048 
Imports  £9,771  £8,803  £968 

(Source: Office for National Statistics, ‘UK total trade: all countries, non-seasonally adjusted’, 27 April 2020) 

Goods trade with Russia 

In 2019, the most commonly imported goods from Russia were oil, metal, and gas products. The most commonly exported goods were cars, pharmaceutical products, and mechanical power generators. This is shown in the graphic below, reproduced from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

(Source: Office for National Statistics, ‘UK trade: May 2020’, 14 July 2020) 

Services trade with Russia 

Table 2 below shows the top five most traded services with Russia in 2019. The most commonly imported services were other business services, financial services, and transport services. 

The UK’s services exports to Russia were dominated by financial services, other business services, and telecommunications and IT services. 

Table 2: UK services trade with Russia, 2019  

Imports  Value (£millions)  Exports  Value (£millions) 
Other business services  £355  Financial services   £1,357 
Financial services  £239  Other business services  £503 
Transport services  £153  Telecommunications and information services  £276 
Travel services  £108  Travel services  £232 
Government services  £67  Government services  £192 

(Source: Office for National Statistics, ‘UK trade in services: service type by partner country, non-seasonally adjusted’, 27 April 2020) 

Trends in trade with Russia 

The UK has not negotiated a bilateral free trade agreement with Russia. The UK currently trades with the country on World Trade Organization terms. Therefore, trade with Russia will not be directly affected by the end of the UK-EU transition period on 31 December 2020. 

Economic relations have been impacted by the UK’s foreign relations with Russia in recent years. The UK currently applies a range of trade sanctions on Russia. These apply to trade in goods such as firearms, ‘dual-use’ items which may have a military application, and certain oil exploration and extraction products.  

Relations have also been affected by events such as the poisoning of the former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and the Salisbury novichok attack in 2018. There have also been allegations that Russia has attempted to interfere in the UK’s domestic politics, such as in the 2016 EU referendum and the 2019 general election.  

The publication of a report on Russia by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has been delayed since before the 2019 general election. The new committee was appointed on 10 July 2020 and it elected Julian Lewis (then Conservative now Independent MP for New Forest East) as its chair. The committee has subsequently agreed that the Russia report will be published before the House of Commons adjourns for summer recess on 22 July 2020

The graph below shows the trend in the value of the UK’s trade with Russia from 2004 to 2019. The trend shows a decline in imports and exports following the global financial crisis in 2008. Trade subsequently increased, but then decreased around 2014, coinciding with the imposition of EU-wide sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Although imports have increased since that date, exports to Russia have remained broadly at their reduced level. 

Graph 1: UK trade with Russia (goods and services), 2004–2019 (£millions) 

(Source: Office for National Statistics, ‘UK total trade: all countries, non-seasonally adjusted’, 27 April 2020) 

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Image by Johan Taljaard on Unsplash