GDP grows 0.2% in February as UK economy beats expectations amid Brexit uncertainty

The UK economy grew 0.2 per cent in February, outperforming the expectations of many City analysts.

Manufacturing surged 0.9 per cent in the month, partly driven by the threat of Brexit disruption, which has caused some firms to ramp up production and stockpile goods.

Over the three months to February, the economy grew 0.3 per cent, despite ongoing Brexit-related uncertainty.

City economists had forecast growth would flatline in February as businesses held off investment until political turmoil subsides.

While better than expected, Britain’s economic performance remains subdued compared with longer-term trends.

The Office for National Statistics said: “Following a period of contraction, output in production and manufacturing has risen for the second month in a row, the latter driven by domestic demand. Manufacturing is now at its highest level since April 2008.”

Services, which make up around four-fifths of the economy, inched up 0.1 per cent, while construction rose 0.4 per cent.

Over the more stable three-month measure, production industries grew output by 0.2 per cent and manufacturing was up 0.4 per cent, the first positive rolling three-month growth since September 2018. This was driven by pharmaceuticals, food, drinks and chemicals, although it was partially offset by a fall in vehicle production.

Rob Kent-Smith, the ONS’s head of GDP, said: “GDP growth remained modest in the latest three months. Services again drove the economy, with a continued strong performance in IT.

“Manufacturing also continued to recover after weakness at the end of last year with the often-erratic pharmaceutical industry, chemicals and alcohol performing well in recent months.”

Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said the data indicated that Britain had weathered the Brexit storm well.

“Growth did not appear to have been significantly boosted by stockpiling ahead of Brexit,” she said. 

“In volume terms, real imports rose by 5.3 per cent in the three months to February. Real exports rose by just 0.8 per cent, suggesting that while businesses have been stockbuilding, they have been mainly doing so by importing more from overseas. So the net boost to GDP growth from stockbuilding is likely to have been small.”


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