Surging export sales helped narrow the UK’s yawning trade gap in the first month after Britain voted to leave the European Union, official figures have revealed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the UK’s deficit on trade in goods and services hit £4.5 billion in July, shrinking from £5.6 billion in June.

The brighter picture for UK trade came after total exports jumped by £800m to £43.8bn, while total imports eased by £300m to £48.3bn.

Sales of jewellery and oil played a key role in driving up exports to the European Union by £1bn to £12.5bn over the period.

The plunge in the value of the pound to 31-year lows following Britain’s vote to leave the EU has made UK goods more competitive on the global market, helping exports to grow.

The shrinking of the trade deficit will raise hopes that the economy can continue to grow in the third quarter despite initial fears that Britain was heading for a recession.

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