Guide links UK Travel Travel Europe Europe Maps
Extensive travel and tourism guide for Britain

Britain - Economy

Economy - overview:

The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is one of the quartet of trillion dollar economies of Western Europe. Over the past two decades the government has greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only 1% of the labor force. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP while industry continues to decline in importance. GDP growth slipped in 2001-02 as the global downturn, the high value of the pound, and the bursting of the "new economy" bubble hurt manufacturing and exports. Still, the economy is one of the strongest in Europe; inflation, interest rates, and unemployment remain low. The relatively good economic performance has complicated the BLAIR government's efforts to make a case for Britain to join the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The Prime Minister has pledged to hold a public referendum if membership meets Chancellor of the Exchequer BROWN's five economic "tests." Scheduled for assessment by mid-2003, the tests will determine whether joining EMU would have a positive effect on British investment, employment, and growth. Critics point out, however, that the economy is thriving outside of EMU, and they point to public opinion polls that continue to show a majority of Britons opposed to the single currency. Meantime, the government has been speeding up the improvement of education, transport, and health services, at a cost in higher taxes. The war in March-April 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq involves a heavy commitment of British military forces, a commitment that will affect economic developments in 2003.

GDP: purchasing power parity: $1.52 trillion (2002 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 1.6% (2002 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $25,300 (2002 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.4%
industry: 24.9%
services: 73.7% (2000)

Population below poverty line: 17%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.3%
highest 10%: 27.7% (1995)

Distribution of family income - Gini index: 36.8 (1995)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.1% (2002 est.)

Labor force: 29.7 million (2001)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 1%, industry 25%, services 74% (1999)

Unemployment rate: 5.2% (2002 est.)

revenues: $565 billion
expenditures: $540 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY01)

Industries: machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, and other consumer goods

Industrial production growth rate: -3.4% (2002 est.)

Electricity - production: 360.9 billion kWh (2001)

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 73.8%
hydro: 0.9%
other: 1.6% (2001)
nuclear: 23.7%

Electricity - consumption: 346.1 billion kWh (2001)

Electricity - exports: 264 million kWh (2001)

Electricity - imports: 10.66 billion kWh (2001)

Oil - production: 2.541 million bbl/day (2001 est.)

Oil - consumption: 1.71 million bbl/day (2001 est.)

Oil - exports: 2.205 million bbl/day (2001)

Oil - imports: 1.418 million bbl/day (2001)

Oil - proved reserves: 4.741 billion bbl (January 2002 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves: 714.9 billion cu m (January 2002 est.)

Agriculture - products: cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish

Exports: $286.3 billion f.o.b. (2002)

Exports - commodities: manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco

Exports - partners: EU 58.1% (Germany 12.5%, France 10.2%, Netherlands 7.7%, Ireland 7.3%), US 15.4% (2001)

Imports: $330.1 billion f.o.b. (2002)

Imports - commodities: manufactured goods, machinery, fuels; foodstuffs

Imports - partners: EU 51.7% (Germany 12.7%, France 8.6%, Netherlands 6.7%, Benelux 5.1%), US 13.2% (2001)

Debt - external: $NA

Economic aid - donor: ODA, $4.5 billion (2000)

Currency: British pound (GBP)

Currency code: GBP

Exchange rates: British pounds per US dollar - 0.6672 (2002), 0.6947 (2001), 0.6609 (2000), 0.6181 (1999), 0.6038 (1998)

Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March

What's New in Europe!

Events & Festivals

London events highlights: Japanese crafts, ‘Pop Art’ and gardening all feature in London’s cultural events calendar this summer and beyond.

Royal wedding dress at Buckingham Palace: A special exhibition at Buckingham Palace this summer will recreate the day in 1947 when Princess Elizabeth - now Queen Elizabeth II - married the Duke of Edinburgh in a glittering ceremony at London’s Westminster Abbey.


Shrewsbury recreates its summer season: Performances by Jools Holland, George Melly and Beverly Knight are among the 370 cultural and artistic events over 100 days at the 'Shrewsbury Summer Season' this year (May 19-Sept. 9).

Scotland’s oldest house marks 900 years: The longest continually inhabited house in Scotland is 900 years old. Once a hunting lodge for the kings and queens of Scotland (it hosted 27 monarchs over the years), the Stuarts of Traquair House supported Mary, Queen of Scots and the doomed Jacobite cause.


Ceramics Festival in The Potteries: Designers, studio potters, experts and collectors will be making their way to The Potteries this autumn for the Stoke-on-Trent Ceramics Festival 2007 (Oct.5-7).

Macdonald Hotels transforms Cheshire golf venue: Three championship golf courses and the largest indoor golf academy in Europe at The Portal Golf Club venue are to be part of the new four star Macdonald Portal Hotel, Golf and Spa in Cheshire when it opens in July.