Britain’s trade deficit ballooned to its highest level since modern records began following a sharp drop in exports
Britain’s trade deficit ballooned to its highest level since modern records began in June following a sharp drop in exports – with particularly weak demand from countries outside the crisis-ridden eurozone.
Hopes of a rebalancing of the economy towards overseas sales were dented with the release of official figures showing the gap between imports and exports widened from £2.7bn to £4.4bn.
Although Britain’s export performance has been hampered by the prolonged crisis in the eurozone, the 4.6% drop in the value of overseas sales in June was largely the result of weaker demand from countries outside the European Union. Exports to the US, where the economy has been slowing down in recent months, fell sharply.
The Office for National Statistics said the UK trade deficit was the largest since comparable records began in 1997 and were made up of a £10.1bn in trade in goods, offset by a £5.8bn surplus in services.
City analysts said the figures were poor even when allowing for the disruption to business caused by the extra bank holiday in June to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
They noted that the trade gap for the second quarter – a better guide to the underlying trend than one month’s figures – increased from £7.8bn to £11.2bn, enough to wipe 1% off economic growth.
Chris Willliamson, economist at Markit, said: “The fall could perhaps be in part blamed on the disruption to shipments caused by extra holidays for the Queen’s Jubilee, but there is clearly an underlying trend of worrying weakness in overseas demand.” He added that the fall in exports in the second quarter was the biggest since 2006.
Vicky Redwood, UK analyst at Capital Economics, said that if the extra bank holiday had affected shipments through UK ports, it should have affected imports – down only 0.7% in June – as severely as exports. “And previous extra bank holidays have not had that big an impact. In June 2002, the month of the Golden Jubilee, the deficit widened by only £0.4bn.”
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Activists who oppose BP’s sponsorship of the gallery carried one and a half tonne blade across Millennium bridge
Dozens of activists have deposited a huge wind turbine blade in the Tate Modern in protest at BP’s sponsorship of the gallery.
Members of the Liberate Tate pressure group carried sections of the 16.5-metre blade across the Thames’s Millennium bridge on Saturday morning before assembling it in the gallery’s Turbine Hall.
The one and a half tonne blade, taken from a decommissioned wind turbine in Wales, was presented to Tate staff along with an official request for it to be made part of the gallery’s permanent collection.
Liberate Tate spokeswoman Sharon Palmer said that “in a time of climate crisis” visitors to the gallery “should not be made to feel that they’re legitimising” oil firms such as BP.
Last December, Tate’s director, Sir Nicholas Serota, was presented with a petition from 8,000 Tate members and visitors, organised by Liberate Tate and two other campaign groups, Platform and Art Not Oil.
BP’s sponsorship of British arts institutions, including the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House, is worth more than £1m a year. It first attracted protests after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
Two months later, five gallons of molasses were poured down Tate Britain’s stairs at its summer party. Demonstrators also released helium balloons with dead fish attached in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Gallery staff shot the balloons down with air rifles.
Sponsorship is increasingly contentious as arts organisations make up the shortfall in government funding.
A spokeswoman for the Tate said: “Tate can confirm at 11.40am today there was an incident in which a wind turbine blade was left in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The blade has now been removed by Tate’s security staff.”
BP could not be reached for comment.