Wednesday 10 April 2019 10:08 am

Britain’s economy grows faster than predicted in February

The UK economy grew by 0.3 per cent in the three months to February, a better-than-expected result as the country counts down to Brexit and faces a weak global economy.

Read more: No-deal Brexit could tip UK and EU into recession, IMF says

In February Britain’s economy grew by 0.2 per cent, figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed, following growth of 0.5 per cent in January.

Economists had expected a growth rate of 0.2 per cent in the three months to February, and yesterday the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its 2019 growth forecast for Britain by 0.2 percentage points to 1.2 per cent.

“The risks surrounding Brexit remain heightened,” IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said yesterday.

Today’s figures suggested Brexit stockpiling played a part in the country’s better-than-expected growth. The manufacturing sector grew by 0.9 per cent in February as demand for goods and supplies increased.

Overall industrial production, which includes mining and quarrying, energy supply, and water and waste management, grew by 0.6 per cent in February.

The service sector grew only modestly, with the ONS’s index of services rising by 0.1 per cent, while construction output increased by 0.4 per cent in February.

Head of GDP at the ONS, Rob Kent-Smith, said: “GDP growth remained modest in the latest three months. Services again drove the economy, with a continued strong performance in IT.”

“Manufacturing also continued to recover after weakness at the end of last year with the often-erratic pharmaceutical industry, chemicals and alcohol performing well in recent months,” he said.

Professor Miguel Leon-Ledesma from the school of economics at the University of Kent said: “It is important to note that these figures are likely to be revised in the future. Since revisions normally range between 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points, we cannot make much out of the number and it should be treated with caution.”

In the three months to February “‘GDP growth was mostly driven by the services sector, with industry contributing negatively,” Leon-Ledesma said. “This has been the case despite the fact that a weak pound should help increase international orders for manufacturing.”

Read more: UK economy rebounds in January after December slump

Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said: “The solid growth rate in the three months to February should ease immediate fears of the economy stalling or contracting in the first quarter and provides support to our view that the economy is well placed to cope with whatever Brexit throws up next.”