UK pound
The UK trade balance narrowed in January.iStock

Britain's deficit on trade in goods and services narrowed slightly but the UK suffered a record deficit with European Union countries in January, official figures released on Friday showed.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Britain's deficit on trade in goods and services fell to £3.5bn in January from a revised £3.7bn the previous month. The deficit in goods alone shrank from £10.5bn in December 2015 to £10.3bn in January. The total trade deficit figure, however, remained above the average monthly shortfall of £3.1bn recorded in 2015.

The deficit with the EU stood at a record £8.1bn in January as exports edged up 0.1% and imports from the EU rose 3.7%.

UK exports have struggled in recent months, as they have clearly been hampered by sterling's overall strength in 2015, particularly against the euro, and moderate global demand," said Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight.

Exports of traded goods to the EU were down by 2.7% in the three months to January compared to the three months to October.

In the three months to January 2016, the UK's deficit on trade in goods and services widened by £3.5bn from the previous quarter to £11.8bn, while the trade in goods deficit widened by £1.5bn to £32.3bn over the same period.

The ONS attributed the widening to a £2.3bn fall in exports, which was only partially offset by a £0.8bn decline in imports.

More about UK economy