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EU Economics

Brexit supporters seize on figures showing that trade deficit with EU has hit highest EVER level

  • Gap between imports and exports reached £23.8bn in the three months to February, according to ONS data
  • Overall deficit with the rest of the world widened to £13.7bn, the biggest since March 2008
  • Experts warn of signs the UK economy is softening

Britain’s trade deficit with the European Union has hit its widest ever level, according to new figures.

The gap between what we import and what we export to the EU reached £23.8billion in the three months to February, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The body recorded a 1.3% decrease in exports and a 1.1% rise in imports during the period.

The findings have been seized on by Brexit campaigners who insisted that the EU will be desperate to secure a strong trade deal with the UK even if we leave.

David Cameron, seen launching the Remain campaign bus yesterday, has warned it could take years to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU if Britain votes to leave in the referendum on June 23

Overall the trade deficit with the rest of the world, including services, widened by £3.8billion to £13.7billion, the biggest since March 2008.

A separate release from the ONS highlighted growing pressure on the economy.

Manufacturing dipped 1.8% year-on-year in February, the biggest drop since July 2013, while output fell 1.1% month-on-month.

Howard Archer, chief European and UK economist at IHS Global Insight, predicted GDP will rise 0.4% in the first quarter of the year – down from 0.6% over the previous three months.

“It is hard seeing any marked pick-up in manufacturing activity happening in the near-term at least, given domestic and global economic uncertainties,” he said.

“Increased caution in the run-up to June’s referendum on EU membership is likely to constrain business demand for capital goods and big-ticket consumer goods.”

Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott said: ‘Even pro-EU campaigners have had to admit that if we Vote Leave we will secure a free trade deal, despite their constant efforts to do down Britain’s economy.

‘We are the EU’s biggest market so they will want to continue trading long after we say no to Brussels.

‘There’s a free trade zone from Iceland to Turkey and as the 5th largest economy in the world we will be part of that.

‘The safe option is to spend the £350million we hand to Brussels each week on our priorities.’

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3530092/Brexit-supporters-seize-figures-showing-trade-deficit-EU-hit-highest-level.html

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