The chart that shows the UK's trade performance is now the worst since the global financial crisis

The gap between exports and imports in the first quarter of 2016 was £13.3bn - the biggest quarterly gap registered since 2008.

Ben Chu
Economics Editor
Tuesday 10 May 2016 12:36 BST
The trade deficit is now likely to be dragging down GDP growth
The trade deficit is now likely to be dragging down GDP growth (TOTE MARITIME/EPA)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


“A truly horrible first quarter trade performance.”

That’s how the veteran City of London economist Howard Archer has described the figures released this morning by the Office for National Statistics.

The figures show the UK has registered its biggest quarterly trade deficit since 2008. The gap between total exports and imports was £13.3bn in the first quarter of 2016. That’s the biggest figure recorded since the first quarter of 2008 (£14.4bn), when the UK was entering recession and global trade was starting to collapse:

This means that the UK as a whole is still importing considerably more than we are exporting - the exact opposite of what ministers have been aiming for since the global financial crisis broke. These figures show rebalancing in terms of trade is just not happening.

This matters for overall economic growth. If the value of imports is greater than the value of exports it automatically means that trade is a net drag on GDP growth.

This will now be the third consecutive quarter in which trade has made a negative contribution to UK GDP growth and will add to already raging concerns that growth overall is drying up thanks to a combination of slowing global growth and domestic anxiety about the possible economic impact of "Brexit".

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