Trade figures came out much rosier than expected yesterday as Britain's exports to regions outside the EU hit a new record, thanks in part to car makers such as Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce selling more to the US, Russia and China.
The figures, released as Jaguar Land Rover announced it is expanding its Halewood plant on Merseyside to meet global demand, will also be seen as good news for the Chancellor's hopes of a "march of the makers" to rebalance the economy away from financial services. Jaguar Land Rover is set to take on 1,000 new staff at Halewood and increase shifts.
As domestic consumer demand falls, Britain is ever more dependent on exports for growth, particularly outside the crisis-bound eurozone. Although the trade gap between imports and exports still widened in January, it did so at a far slower rate than expected.
The Office for National Statistics said the goods trade deficit grew to £7.53bn from December's two-year-low of £7.18bn. Economists had been expecting a gap of £7.88bn.