The UK is a major customer for the rest of the EU

23rd Sep 2016

“We have a deficit with the rest of the European Union of between £80 and £100 billion a year. We are the major customer for the European Union, of any country in the world. Whilst we’re still in the EU the biggest customer is the US, once we’re out it will be us.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, 22 September 2016

It’s correct that we import between £80 billion and £100 billion more than we export to the rest of the EU each year, according to data from the EU.

The UK imported about £109 billion more in goods than it exported to the rest of the EU in 2015, according to EU data. But it exported about £17 billion more in services than it imported. So overall, the UK ran a trade deficit of about £92 billion.

UK data gives a slightly lower figure, because there are variations in the way data about trade is collected between countries. It says that we exported about £21 billion more in services than we imported, and about £89 billion less in goods. That puts our overall trade deficit with the rest of the EU much lower, at £68 billion.

So the claim is correct, provided you use the EU’s figures.

Both sources agree that the UK’s trade surplus in services and trade deficit in goods have been increased overall in recent years. Our combined trade deficit has been increasing at the same time.

The EU data also shows that the UK is the rest of the EU’s biggest customer, in the sense that more exports from other EU countries go to the UK than anywhere else.

And it’s correct that the USA is currently the rest of the EU’s biggest export market, as we’ve discussed in the past. Outside the EU, the UK would be its biggest export market—assuming that exports levels stay the same.

There’s lots of different ways to look at how much UK-EU trade is worth to each party, and what that means for who is most keen to agree on a trade deal. We’ve written about this in detail here.

This fact check is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time, factchecked. Read the roundup.