The figures for April showed a 1.4% fall in April, the biggest drop since October 2012 and the third consecutive monthly fall. Total production output fell by 0.8%. These results have come as a surprise, with experts predicting a rise of 0.3%.
“Manufacturing fell in the three months to April with electrical machinery and steel for infrastructure projects seeing reduced production,” commented Rob Kent-Smith, head of national accounts at the ONS. “International demand continued to slow and the domestic market remained subdued. However, oil and gas production grew strongly in the aftermath of the Forties pipeline closure at the end of last year.”
Signs of a struggling economy were also demonstrated in the fact that the UK’s trade deficit widened by £2.1bn in April, to £5.3bn – the largest monthly deficit since September 2016. Exports of goods, in particular pharmaceuticals, aircraft and machinery, also declined.
"Alarm bells should be ringing for the Government over this steep drop in manufacturing output - which is the biggest monthly fall since 2012," added Jude Brimble, GMB national secretary. “The uncertainty from the Government's approach to Brexit is harming UK manufacturing and delaying important business investment decisions that will provide high quality jobs in the years to come. Not only is Government dithering hurting industry, it leaves millions of UK workers and their families unable to make long terms plans because they’ve no idea if their jobs are safe.”
“If the Government does have a functioning industrial strategy we need to see it in action. The Government should be fighting for UK manufacturing and ministers must think more about all our UK industries in these crucial Brexit negotiations in the weeks and months ahead. Between Trump wanting to slap tariffs on our steel and the UK Government refusing to be in a European customs union, UK manufacturing risks being stranded."