The UK economy grew 2.3% in April, its highest monthly rate since July last year, but it is still 3.7% below its pre-pandemic peak.
Shoppers spent more on the High Street, on cars, and in hospitality, reports the BBC. Spending in non-essential shops drove much of the growth as customers were allowed back into stores from 12 April in England, with clothes stores seeing a boost of 69.4%.
Better than expected
According to the FT, the ONS figures were sightly better than economists’ “already optimistic” forecasts and more than offset the third lockdown’s decline of 1.5% in the first quarter, putting the increase in gross domestic product on a path for a strong second quarter.
Output is expected to continue to expand in May, although the possibility of a delay to the final reopening of the economy still hangs over the outlook.
Prime minister Boris Johnson will announce on Monday whether Covid restrictions will be lifted, the Telegraph reports. A two-week delay until July 5 has been under discussion by scientists and civil servants.
EU export recovery
Separate trade figures from the ONS showed that exports of goods to the EU had “broadly recovered from the disruptions” caused by Brexit at the start of the year, the Times reports, but imports remain “significantly down on 2020 levels”.
Compared with three years ago - the last time trade was unaffected by either Covid or concerns of a disruptive Brexit - British goods exports to the EU this April were 7.1% lower and imports from the EU were 15.3% lower.
Pig meat boost
Export figures from HMRC reveal a mixed picture for red meat and dairy sectors for March, reports Farmers Weekly.
Pig meat exports were up by 13% driven by a 40% increase to non-EU markets including China and the Philippines, where trade was nine times higher than in 2020.
The news comes as the dispute between the UK and EU over health certificates required for meat moving from GB to NI is a topic on the G7 summit agenda in Cornwall this weekend.
An EU requirement for Export Health Certificates for products of animal origin entering NI is being contested by the UK, which unilaterally suspended the need for supermarkets and their suppliers to complete them earlier this year.
The row has been dubbed a ‘sausage trade war’ as the government is now considering another unilateral extension for the date at which health certification will be required for chilled meats, including sausages and mince.
Meanwhile HMRC figures showed the post-Brexit slump in beef exports continuing, down 30% on 2020. Dairy product exports to the EU saw a month-on-month rise, although most categories were down on the year.