The latest UK trade figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show the deficit in the first quarter of 2016 stood at £13.3 billion.
This is the biggest for any calendar quarter since the first three months of 2008.
Commenting on the data, Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:
“We have not seen a quarterly trade deficit of this size since the early days of the financial crisis. The Government has a real challenge ahead if it hopes to meet its target to increase the value of exports to £1 trillion and support 100,000 new exporters by 2020.
Small businesses can make a significant contribution to this target but they need tailored support. Our own research shows small business confidence at its lowest level since 2013 alongside a worrying decline in export performance among small firms. As the new Minister Lord Price takes over the export brief within Government, we will be urgently discussing with him how to make funding and support more effective for small firms looking to export.”