February brings cheers to British economy


A group of friends react to the camera as patrons sit at tables outside bars on Canal Street on April 12, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
A group of friends react to the camera as patrons sit at tables outside bars on Canal Street on April 12, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

BRITAIN’s economy rebounded slightly in February despite virus curbs, while exports of goods to the EU jumped by almost 50 per cent but failed to reverse January’s record Brexit-driven slump.

Gross domestic product expanded by 0.4 per cent in February after sinking by an upwardly-revised 2.2 per cent the previous month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement that noted a boost from industrial output and consumer spending.

The economy held up despite England’s renewed Covid-19 lockdown, which was implemented in early January but partially eased this week owing to a rapid vaccination drive.

From Monday (12), pubs were allowed to serve drinks outside — and non-essential retailers and hairdressers reopened as well.

The phased reopening has sparked hopes for a rebound in economic activity in the current second quarter, or three months to June.

The ONS added however on Tuesday (13) that the nation’s economy remains 7.8 per cent smaller than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

January’s economic decline nevertheless marked an improvement from the previous estimate of a 2.9-per cent contraction.

“The economy showed some improvement in February after the large falls seen at the start of the year but remains around 8.0 per cent below its pre-pandemic level,” said an ONS spokeswoman.

“Wholesalers and retailers both saw sales pick up a little, while manufacturing improved with car producers experiencing a partial recovery from a poor January.

“Construction grew strongly after revised figures showed they had struggled in the last couple of months,” the spokeswoman said.

The ONS also revealed Tuesday that UK exports rebounded sharply in February, driven by cars and pharmaceuticals as the nation adapted to life outside the EU.

The value of UK goods exported to the EU jumped by 46.6 per cent or £3.7 billion ($5.1bn) from the prior month.

The nation’s EU exports had nosedived by a record 42 per cent or £5.7bn in January.

“Exports to the EU recovered significantly from their January fall, though still remain below 2020 levels,” the ONS spokeswoman added.

“However, imports from the EU are yet to significantly rebound, with a number of issues hampering trade.”

The value of EU goods imported into Britain rose by 7.3 per cent or £1.2bn in February, after a record fall of 29.7 per cent or £6.7bn in January.

The nation’s Brexit divorce took full effect at the end of last year, after prime minister Boris Johnson clinched a last-minute trade deal with Brussels.

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