Image: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Image: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Factories across the UK are stockpiling their raw materials at record levels in preparation for Brexit, according to the latest figures from IHS Markit/CIPS.

The research showed that manufacturers had never increased stocks of their raw materials at such a high pace in the survey's 27-year history.

While there was generally growth in the manufacturing sector, IHS Markit/CIPS described its start to 2019 as "lacklustre". New export orders were stagnant, while employment fell as the researchers warned of the risk of manufacturing falling into recession following the UK leaving the European Union.

Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, said: "The start of 2019 saw UK manufacturers continue their preparations for Brexit.

"Stocks of inputs increased at the sharpest pace in the 27-year history, as buying activity was stepped up to mitigate against potential supply-chain disruptions in coming months.

"There were also signs that inventories of finished goods were being bolstered to ensure warehouses are well stocked to meet ongoing contractual obligations."

The news comes after a series of warnings from experts and businesses alike over shortages of products in the wake of Brexit, particularly medical supplies, the NHS stressed.

And yesterday, consumer goods giant Unilever said it was bringing in a 'few extra weeks'' worth of Ben & Jerry's and Magnum ice cream stock. The company said it wanted to stockpile to reduce the impact of possible disruption to supply chains in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

"We have built inventory on either side of the Channel," said Unilever boss Alan Jope. "It's weeks of inventory - not months or days.

"If I was in the designer handbag business then I might have built further [inventory] cover but we're not, we are in fast-moving consumer goods and one of the things we have learned is, when you build inventory, it can end up being the wrong mix of product."