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Updated 22:40 27/02/20

UK gold export causes dramatic ‘improvement’ in trade figures

Liam Sheasby

By Liam Sheasby, News Editor

14 Feb 2020


An unusual anomaly in gold exports from the UK has triggered what one Conservative MP called a ‘record breaking year for UK exports’, though the reality appears to be somewhat different.

Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk and Minister for Women and Equalities tweeted the following on Tuesday:

The data refers to the fact that, in two-month periods, the UK has had near-zero exports of gold for the past 20 years, with a rough average figure of around £126 million (not a small sum, but in an economy of billions…). In November & December last year however, this figure rose to £12 billion. As Ed Conway, the Economics Editor for Sky News, flagged up in his Twitter thread about the topic, this is a sum larger than the GDP of Jamaica.

Concerns have arisen this week over the figures due to their impact on the UK’s trade balance, which for the first time on record is in surplus. The reality is that it isn’t, because London is one of the main gold markets in the world and trading is to be expected in the city.

Conway highlighted Ms Truss’ tweet as an example of misreading the statistics:

The big question is who has ‘exported’ this gold? Central bank gold, such as holdings at the Bank of England for Poland and Romania, do not count in the export statistics, so this must be a private transaction. Conway’s guess is that its unallocated gold becoming allocated and, given the quantity and valuation, it probably belongs to an international bank. This would mean no gold has actually been exported, but rather the documentation of said gold was amended on a spreadsheet.

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