LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) – British factory orders picked up this month after dipping in January, and output is expected to be solid as Britain leaves the European Union, a survey from the Confederation of British Industry showed on Wednesday.
Although the CBI warned that Brexit talks were rapidly approaching “crisis point”, its data painted a more positive picture ahead of Brexit than many recent surveys of the sector.
Official data last week showed the sector contracted by the biggest amount in over five years during the final three months of 2018.
The CBI’s factory order book balance rose to +6 this month from January’s reading of -1, above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists and above the survey’s long-run average.
Export order growth also strengthened, though manufacturers expected output growth to slow over the next three months from the above-average rates predicted in December and January.
“UK manufacturing activity has moderated at the same time as headwinds from Brexit uncertainty and a weaker global trading environment have grown,” CBI economist Anna Leach said.
Britain’s main manufacturing body, Make UK, warned on Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit next month would be a “catastrophic prospect” for the sector.
Finance minister Philip Hammond told Make UK’s annual dinner that lawmakers and EU leaders needed to listen to industry.
“The clock is ticking quickly towards crisis point,” Leach added. “It is of critical importance that politicians of all stripes and on both sides of the channel come to agreement on the terms of a Brexit deal as soon as possible.”
(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce)