The UK's trade deficit hit its highest level since 2008 in the first quarter of 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The ONS said the deficit in goods and services grew by £1.1 billion from the final quarter of 2015 to £13.3bn, a figure which was described by one analyst as "truly horrible". The increase comes after imports of goods like machinery, jewellery and footwear rose by £1.9bn. However, exports grew by just £500 million comparatively.
Howard Archer, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, said: "A truly horrible first-quarter trade performance that clearly weighed down on GDP growth.
"The hope has to be that UK exporters will increasingly be helped by the overall marked weakening of the pound in 2016, although the pound has climbed off its April lows."
On a monthly basis, which the ONS says is a less reliable measure, the deficit fell £200m to £11.2bn between February and March.
Stephen Ibbotson, director of business at the ICAEW, said: “During the last three to four months, we’ve witnessed export figures steadily increasing. This concurs with the latest ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor (BCM) findings that demonstrate growing exports due to a weak sterling. The favourable exchange rate is good news in the short-term, however the long-term export target remains elusive. This is likely to be a three Parliament challenge, as Government must continue to make structural improvements to the export market. We put forward the notion that, through the release of ‘Productivity Now’, key policy makers should adopt a ‘whole of life’ strategy to support exporters.”