February 12, 2019: The British economy grew at its slowest pace in six years in 2018, data showed Monday, as Brexit uncertainty grips the country and fears grow that Britain could crash out of the EU without a deal.
The bleak official figures came as the British government seeks to win more time to secure EU concessions on Brexit that could pass the UK parliament and avert a chaotic split from the bloc on March 29.
Businesses are on edge with Britain just weeks away from its scheduled departure from the European project after 46 years and still with no firm arrangements in place.
The parliament in London last month roundly rejected a Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May had sealed with the remaining 27 EU leaders.
Monday's figures followed data last week that showed Britain's dominant service sector almost ground to a halt in January.
“The economy is clearly struggling in the first quarter of 2019 amid serious business and consumer caution resulting from heightened Brexit uncertainties while weaker global growth is also impacting” the figures, noted Howard Archer, chief economic advisor at the EY ITEM Club.
Last year gross domestic product growth stood at 1.4 percent, down from 1.8 percent in 2017, the Office for National Statistics said Monday.
Growth was only 0.2 percent in the last three months of 2018, the ONS said in a statement.
“Construction, production and services output fell in the month (of December), the first time that there has been such a broad-based fall in monthly output since September 2012,” the ONS said.
Britain has been in a state of political turmoil for two months since the Brexit deal was agreed in December.
In an incident heavy with symbolism, parts of parliament were cordoned off Monday after a large piece of masonry fell onto a parked vehicle over the weekend.