UK exports plunge by £1.4bn

UK exports took their biggest plunge in more than three years during January, official figures showed today.

Exports fell by £1.4 billion, or 6.9%, to £19.5 billion compared with December in the largest month-on-month fall since July 2006, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).



While the ONS has no hard data yet on the impact of the winter weather on exports, it is likely that snow-bound manufacturers struggled to get their goods to ports.



JP Morgan economist Malcolm Barr said: "It is plausible that the snow disruption was more of a constraint on the ability to get UK exports to airports and the dockside than it was on receiving imports."



Exports to the US were the biggest casualty over the month, with a £500 million slide.



The overall decline far outstripped a 1.6% decline in imports - leaving the UK's goods trade gap with the rest of the world widening from £7 billion to £8 billion in January.



This is the biggest trade gap since August 2008 and undermines hopes that a weaker pound will boost exports and help rebalance the economy.



The pound came under further pressure today, falling below 1.50 US dollars as ratings agency Fitch also reiterated its concerns over the UK's public finances and called for tougher action on the deficit at a London conference.



Experts warned the poor trade figures would continue to act as a drag on recovery during the first quarter of 2010, having knocked off 0.2 percentage points from the UK's 0.3% growth in the final three months of 2009.



Vicky Redwood of Capital Economics said: "There is clearly a big question mark over whether any improvement in net trade will come through quickly or strongly enough to offset the weakness in domestic demand."



The British Chambers of Commerce also warned that the Government needed to do more to support trade after a survey of 250 exporting businesses which found that one in eight had experienced problems securing access to trade finance over the past year.



David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: "If the Government is serious about encouraging British exports as a driver of employment, economic growth and prosperity, it must resolve blockages in the finance that underpins UK global trade.



"Our exporters need to be able to compete more effectively with rivals on the continent and further afield, who are currently better supported during difficult economic environments or in riskier foreign markets.











Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke said: "Disappointing new statistics out today show that our goods trade deficit with the rest of the world actually rose in January from £7 billion to £8 billion and is now in its worst position since August 2008.



"This is a sign of the damage that 13 years of Labour government has done to our manufacturing sector.



"We need to build a new economic model based on saving, investment and exports instead of the debt-fuelled model of the last decade.



"Sir James Dyson has set out detailed proposals to the Conservative Party about how Britain can strengthen its manufacturing, design and technology sectors so we can take our products to the world.



"A David Cameron-led government will undoubtedly follow this broad agenda and this should give hope to the unemployed school leavers and graduates who have become the victims of Brown's recession, as they look to better career prospects in the future."



Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said: "These are deeply alarming figures which suggest that British exporters simply haven't been able to take advantage of the big devaluation which occurred in the last year.



"They suggest that the long term decline and neglect of British manufacturing has taken its toll and that an awful lot more needs to be done to rebalance the economy to make it more competitive.



"It is wrong to suggest that the British economy can escape from this recession by just relying on exports. It just isn't happening.



"Exports are one modest part of the national economy. We need an economy that is strong and secure across the board - and the Liberal Democrats are committed to delivering that."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee