Monday 10 June 2019 2:43 pm

UK trade gap widens as ministers seek Brexit deals

The UK’s overall trade deficit widened by £2.7bn to £15.6bn in the three months to April, as Britain increased its imports of goods, official statistics today showed.

Read more: Pound falls as UK economy shrinks by 0.4 per cent in April

Yet if certain volatile goods are excluded, the trade deficit narrowed by £4.2bn in the three months April to £6.6bn, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Rising imports of “unspecified goods”, which includes privately-bought gold, was the main driver in the widening of the trade in goods deficit, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The ONS said “non-monetary gold” – bullion not owned by central banks – “can have a particularly large impact due to the large volumes of gold traded on the London markets”.

The trade figures come as Britain seeks to strike deals around the world in the run up to Brexit.

The UK government today announced the agreement of a free-trade deal with South Korea that will ensure British businesses can continue to trade with the country on preferential terms.

On a 12-month basis, the UK’s overall trade deficit widened £19.3bn to £44.6bn, largely driven by a wider goods deficit.

Imports of goods rose £31.4bn to £509.6bn while exports rose £16.0bn to £356.6bn.

Overall exports rose four per cent, or £24.9bn, to £645.8bn, a record high.

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, focused on the fact that goods exports to the USA increased by 11.9 per cent to £57.6bn in the 12 months to April.

He said last week’s state visit by US President Donald Trump “reminded us of the truly unique economic relationship which helps our businesses to prosper.”

Read more: UK agrees post-Brexit trade deal with South Korea

He said: “I encourage exporters right across the country to use today’s statistics as evidence that despite global headwinds, the most prosperous countries in the world are demanding British goods at unprecedented levels.”