BRITAIN'S economy scored a Brexit boost May 10 as figures showed exports racing ahead, rising growth and the highest quarterly pick-up in manufacturing since the 1980s. The statistics showed UK exports reached a record high of £640billion in the last financial year.
And in the run-up to Britain's expected departure March 29 from the EU, GDP rose by 0.5 per cent according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The first-quarter rise came after 0.2 per cent growth in the previous three months. Increased spending at the shops and more investment by businesses also helped fuel the rise. Chancellor Philip Hammond said the figures showed the economy remained "robust".
He added: "The economy has grown for nine consecutive years, debt is falling, employment is at a record high and wages are rising at their fastest pace in over a decade.
"We're investing at record levels in our infrastructure and skills to boost productivity and wages, which will ensure that Britain is well-placed to seize the opportunities that lie ahead."
Manufacturing grew at 2.2 per cent - its fastest rate since 1988, the ONS said.
Pharmaceuticals expanded by 9.4 per cent as companies prepared for Brexit.
Retail sales were up by 1.6 per cent and the construction industry recorded a one per cent rise. But agriculture, forestry and fishing suffered a 1.8 per cent fall.
Business investment grew by 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 as firms put more money into IT equipment and other machinery.
Economist Ruth Gregory of Capital Economics said there were "encouraging signs that underlying growth gained some pace". Household consumption growth was "solid" and business investment grew "for the first time in four quarters", she added.
Since the EU referendum exports have continued to grow.
The ONS figures showed UK firms sold more overseas in the last financial year than at any time since records began.
Exports hit £639.9billion in 2018/18, up by £18.5billion on the previous year.
UK exports grew faster than those of Germany, France and Italy between 2016 and 2018 according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation.
Britain's 13.8 per cent rate also outstripped the EU's overall rate of 11.9 per cent.
But the total trade deficit - the gap between what the UK imports and exports - has widened to 3.4 per cent. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: "UK exports continue to grow and beat records across Europe.
"These new numbers published today highlight the quality and innovation of British goods and services and how much they are valued across the globe.
"From exports of our Scotch whisky to our world-class cars, consumers all over the world are demanding British goods at unprecedented levels."
He added: "My international economic department is confident British businesses will continue to excel as we leave the EU and we will offer our full support."