THE UK’s global goods trade deficit widened to a significantly worse-than-expected £13.58 billion in December from £12.46bn in November as imports rose faster than exports, official figures show.

December’s goods trade deficit was nearly £2bn worse than the £11.6bn figure forecast by the City.

Suren Thiru, head of economics at British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The sharp deterioration in the UK’s net trade position in December was disappointing and means that trade is likely to have been a drag on UK growth in the final quarter of the year. This deterioration reflects a significant increase in imports in the quarter, more than offsetting the rise in exports.”

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He noted there was little sign UK-produced goods were replacing imports.

He said: “While many exporters are benefiting from stronger growth in key trading markets, imports continue to grow at a solid pace with businesses continuing to report little in the way of import substitution despite their high cost.

“If this trend continues as we expect, the contribution of net trade to UK GDP (gross domestic product) growth over the near term is likely to be limited at best.”

Sterling’s post-Brexit vote weakness has made UK exporters more competitive overseas, but driven up the cost of imports.

Taking goods and services together, the UK’s global trade deficit widened from £3.65bn in November to £4.9bn in December.