Brexit: 58 sectors analysed

The Government has confirmed that it has produced analyses of 58 sectors of the economy in the context of Brexit. A Written Ministerial Statement published on the 7 November 2017 stated that:

The sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis, contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum. It examines the nature of activity in the sectors, how trade is conducted with the EU currently in these sectors and, in many cases, considers the alternatives following the UK’s exit from the EU as well as considering existing precedents. The analysis ranges from the very high level overarching analysis to sometimes much more granular level analysis of certain product lines in specific sectors.

The written statement also stated that the analyses would be published within “no more than three weeks” from the 7 November 2017.

The Government published a list of these sectors on 31 October 2017 (but not the assessments themselves) as part of their response to a report by the Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee (Brexit: trade in goods).

The Government has repeatedly stated (including in the response to a Freedom of Information request) that they haven’t published the reports because “the release of this information could be detrimental to the Government’s [Brexit] negotiating position”.

The table below shows these sectors, their current contribution to the UK economy and the number of people they employ.

58 sectors - economic output and employment

wdt_ID Sector Economic output GVA - £ million % of economy Employment (1000s) % of employment
1 Advertising and marketing 12,871 1% 170 1%
2 Aerospace 8,665 0% 89 0%
3 Agriculture, Animal Health and Food and Drink manufacturing 39,744 2% 625 2%
4 Architecture 29,469 2% 546 2%
5 Asset management See financial services
6 Audit and accounting 17,722 1% 341 1%
7 Automotive 14,549 1% 162 1%
8 Aviation 10,259 1% 76 0%
9 Broadcasting 6,447 0% 43 0%
10 Bus and coach transport See land transport and support

The data in excel format, further information on sources and the SIC codes used in the table above can be found in this spreadsheet.

These industries vary greatly in size and importance to the economy. For example, the retail sector contributes £95 billion to the economy and employs 2.8 million people, whilst the crafts industry contributes £400 million to the economy and employs 7,000 people.

How are sectors defined?

As the Government notes in their response to the Lords committee, “there is more than one way to classify sectors.”

The Government’s list includes some commonly used definitions of sectors, such as ‘pharmaceuticals’ or ‘publishing’. But some of the definitions of sectors on the list are non-standard, such as the ‘maritime/ports including marine equipment’ sector. For the non-standard sectoral groupings, the economic output of relevant smaller sectors have been added together in the table above (for example, to create the ports sector, ‘water transport’ and ’the building of ships/boats’ sectors have been combined).

Economic activity can be categorised using to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. Each category is given a number called a SIC code. The categories can then be combined to build up larger sectors. For example, the SIC codes used here to analyse the ports sector are 50 (water transport) and 301 (building of ships and boats).

The Government’s list of sectors does not include all sectors of economy. For example, it excludes most of the public sector.


Most of the estimates of economic output used here come from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) publication Q3 2017 GDP preliminary estimate – low level aggregate tables. Economic contribution is in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA), a measure similar to GDP. The employment data mostly come from the ONS Business register and employment survey and refer to Great Britain only. The employment and economic output data from these sources refer to 2016.

The creative industries data presented here uses the Government’s estimates of economic output and employment in the creative industries.

For tourism, the ONS Tourism Satellite Account ‘nowcast estimates’ of the economic output of tourism related sectors, and separate ONS estimates of tourism employment have been used.

Official sources do not split the economic output of the financial services into the sectors that the Government lists (for example ‘fintech’, or ‘asset management’), so in the table above, all of these are grouped into ‘financial services (excl. insurance and pensions)’.

The ONS Annual business survey (ABS) has been used here for very small industries. The ABS has also been used to estimate the real estate sector because it provides estimates that are more reflective of the sector’s actual economic output than the GDP estimates used elsewhere. The ABS uses a slightly different definition of GVA called ‘approximate GVA’.

The data in excel format, further information on sources and the SIC codes used in the table above can be found in this spreadsheet.

Further information about the impact assessments is available in the Library’s briefing for today’s debate Exiting the EU: sectoral impact assessments.

Picture credit: Robots in the Tesla Factory manufacturing line by Patrick Herbert.  Licensed under CC BY 2.0 / image cropped.