Britain is deeper in the red with its world trading partners than any other country in the European Union.
Britain clocked up a trade deficit of around £15.8bn with countries outside the European Union in the nine months to last September. Imports of approximately £119.5bn exceeded exports of £103.7bn.
Some £4.96bn of the £15.8bn trade deficit was added in the third quarter of 1996 alone.
Britain’s deficit was almost three times higher than the two next weakest EU countries – Greece and Spain.
Despite this, the figures from European statistics bureau, Eurostat, showed that the EU had an export surplus with the rest of the world of £10.2bn in the 1996 third quarter.
This reflected strong export growth – up 12.2% between the 1995 and 1996 third quarters – mainly due to trade surpluses for Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.
British exports were up 19.8% on the 1995 third quarter, but imports rose by 9.1% in the same quarter.