UK services sector grew more than expected after Brexit vote

LONDON – Britain’s pivotal services sector has defied expectations in the weeks after the vote to leave the European Union.

The Office of National Statistics said Friday that the sector expanded by a strong 0.4 per cent in July, despite uncertainty following the June 23 vote to leave the EU. Economists had predicted output would slow to 0.1 per cent, from 0.2 per cent in June.

The sector accounts for three quarters of the economy.

Darren Morgan of the ONS says the data shows there’s “no sign of an immediate shock” to the economy from the vote.

That will come as a “huge sigh of relief,” said Scott Corfe, director at the Centre for Economics and Business Research. But troubles remain as the country is still in the early stages after the vote.

“Economic growth has been partly driven by U.K. consumers becoming less cautious and saving less,” he said. “This could easily unravel in the face of headwinds that cause consumers to adopt a more cautious attitude — such as the significant degree of economic uncertainty that is likely to be seen over the coming years, both Brexit-related and otherwise.”

The U.K. statistics agency also said the economy did better than previously expected in the April-June quarter, growing 0.7 per cent, up from the earlier estimate of 0.6 per cent.