Cargo ship

The UK's trade deficit was worse than expected in February, despite a slight narrowing, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS said the deficit in goods and services was £4.8 billion in February, down £400 million from January's revised figure. The fall came after a narrowing of the deficit in goods and a widening of the surplus in services. But it was roughly £1.8bn higher than the ONS expected due to revisions of imports of non-EU goods.

The goods deficit fell slightly from £12.2bn in January to £12bn in February. And the services surplus grew by £200m to £7.1bn.

The figures show that a rise in chemical exports accounted for the bulk of the closer gap in goods trade.

However, there was far less positive news over a three month period, the ONS said. Compared with the previous quarter, the overall trade deficit grew £3.8bn to £13.7bn in the three months to February. The ONS said it was the largest quarterly trade deficit since March 2008, when it hit £14.4bn.

Ahead of the all-important EU referendum, the figures also showed the largest trade deficit with EU on record. Following a 1.3% fall in exports and 1.1% rise in exports, the quarterly figure hit £23.8bn, which was £1bn more than the previous highest total, recorded in the previous three months.