Concerns have been raised about the health of the British economy following a decline in the UK's export performance during November 2015.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics has revealed that the value of British exports during the month was £42.2 billion, down by 1.2 per cent on the previous month. This represented the lowest figure recorded since last July.
Despite this, the country was able to bring down its trade deficit levels for the month, with the gap narrowing from £3.5 billion in October to £3.2 billion in November. However, this was the result of a drop in imports - in particular a fall in oil purchases - rather than any sign of economic strength.
Zach Witton, deputy chief economist at EEF, noted that the country's export performance will remain a key barometer for business prospects in 2016, as companies continue to struggle against challenging conditions for international trade.
Global demand remains weak as a consequence of the slower growth experienced by many emerging markets at present, with China being the biggest and most representative example of this. However, conditions in the US and the eurozone are improving at the moment, which may provide some respite.
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Although worsening global headwinds are contributing to the UK's excessive trade deficit, the broader message is that unless radical measures are taken to strengthen our export performance, our trade deficit will continue to be a threat to the country's long-term economic performance."
This comes after chancellor George Osborne recently warned that 2016 could be a challenging year in economic terms due to a "dangerous cocktail of new threats", with 2015 noted as the weakest year of global growth since the recession.