THE UK’S trade deficit – the amount Britain imports over what it exports – widened in February.
The trade deficit in goods and services increased to £2.86bn from £1.54bn the month before, according to data released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics.
It was the result of a £1bn drop in exports to £41.3bn and a £300m climb in imports to £44.2bn.
The decline in exports reflects mainly a fall in exports of goods to non-EU countries, particularly to the US, the ONS said.
Meanwhile, the goods deficit between the UK and countries within the EU increased by £1.5bn to £21.1bn in the three months to February, due to a 5.6 per cent decline in exports. The decline in exports to the EU was led by falls in exports of oil.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) – a business lobby – called on the government to help Britain’s exporters to gain access to the world’s fast-growing export markets.
“Our trade deficit in goods with the EU continues to widen, reflecting weak demand caused by prolonged stagnation in the Eurozone,” said the IoD’s head of trade policy Allie Renison.
“This underlines the need to reorient our focus on key emerging markets, including Asia. The government should be pushing the EU as hard as possible to secure trade deals with countries where tariffs on goods still matter for British manufacturing exporters.”
Economist Martin Beck from the EY Item club said: “There is tentative evidence to suggest that exporters have benefited from the improved performance of the Eurozone in recent months, in spite of the hindrance of a stronger pound against the euro. But the boost from stronger trade with the Eurozone appears to have been offset by the disappointing performance of the US in the first three months of the year.”