Belfast Telegraph

Trade gap at worst level since 2010 as exports tumble

By Holly Williams

The UK's trade gap grew to its highest level since 2010 last year as the country saw an £8.1bn fall in the export of goods.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the deficit - the difference in value between imports and exports - widened by £300m to £34.7bn in 2015.

This came despite an improvement in December, with the deficit reducing to £2.7bn from a revised £4bn in November.

But the narrowed trade gap showed little sign of a much-needed pick-up in exports, with the gap easing thanks only to a fall in imports.

Experts said the Government's target for £1trillion worth of overseas sales by 2020 would be a "monumental challenge".

Business groups also warned that "much more needs to be done" to boost exports.

The ONS confirmed that trade proved a drag on overall UK growth in the fourth quarter of last year and throughout 2015.

Firms struggled to sell products abroad last year as the strong pound made British goods more expensive, while the global economic woes and slowdown in China added to the trade troubles.

The figures showed exports of goods to the European Union fell by £11.6bn between 2014 and 2015, as the weak euro made UK products more expensive.

Exports to China have fallen since 2011, and there are fears the sharp slowdown in the country's economy will further hit the UK over the year ahead.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Much more needs to be done to improve our trading position, with particular emphasis on helping small businesses to start exporting, as well as helping firms to break into new export markets."

Belfast Telegraph