Image: Georgie Pauwels Image: Georgie Pauwels

The UK economy grew by 0.4% in the first quarter of 2016, according to preliminary figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It compares with growth of 0.6% in the final quarter of 2015, with three of the four key areas of the economy contracting.

The ONS said the UK's services sector, which accounts for roughly 75% of GDP, grew by 0.6% over the year. On the other hand, production, construction and agriculture all saw output decrease by 0.4%, 0.9% and 0.1%, respectively.

ONS chief economist, Joe Grice, said: "Today’s figures suggest growth has slowed as compared with the pace up to the middle of last year. Services continue to underpin the economy but other sectors have shown falling output this quarter.

“Today's more detailed Index of Services estimates show growth of 0.1% in February, following the same estimate for January. This is consistent with the same picture, though undue weight should not be placed on short term movements.”

With uncertainty surrounding the EU referendum and its outcome, market experts have widely warned that the UK economy would suffer in the run-up to the vote itself.

Rain Newton-Smith, director of economics at the CBI, said: "Looking ahead, favourable tailwinds should deliver a reasonable rate of growth. Crucially, consumer spending - which accounts for around two thirds of the economy - is expected to hold up as low oil prices and decent household income growth reinforce spending.

"However, there are risks that could knock growth off course. Global growth could slow further, hitting already weak exports and offsetting the boost from the falling pound. There is also a risk that concerns about debt positions in China and emerging markets could flare up again, leading to a return of financial market volatility."