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UK economy slides in April after Brexit car plant shutdowns

Christian Fernsby |
Britain's economy contracted sharply in April after the biggest fall in car production since records began, as manufacturers were unable to reverse closures planned for when they had expected Britain to leave the EU.

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Early in 2019 many motor manufacturers had announced temporary shutdowns in Britain for April, in anticipation of trade disruption around the time Britain was due to leave the European Union on March 29.

In the event, Prime Minister Theresa May delayed departure with just days to go and subsequently set a new date of Oct. 31 but this was too late for businesses to change their plans.

Britain's economy overall contracted by 0.4% in April after a 0.1% decline in March, the Office for National Statistics said on Monday, a bigger drop than any economist had forecast in a Reuters poll last week.

Growth in the three months to April slowed to 0.3% from 0.5% in the first quarter of 2019, also a sharper deceleration than most economists had expected, while the annual growth rate fell to 1.3%.

But this masked a far bigger impact for the manufacturing sector, which shrank by 3.9% on the month in April, the biggest fall since June 2002.

Car production in April fell 24% on the month, the biggest drop since records began in 1995, and the broader category of 'transport equipment' showed its largest drop since 1974.

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