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Brexit's toll: UK economy at weakest since financial crisis"
In an official report released today, figures show Britain's economy slowed last year to its weakest growth rate since the global financial crisis, as mounting uncertainty over Brexit weighed on businesses and their investments. The Office for National Statistics said that the British economy grew by a quarterly rate of only 0.2 percent during the fourth quarter, down from 0.6 percent recorded in the previous quarter. In 2018, the economy grew by 1.4 percent, its lowest rate since the aftermath of the 2009 global financial crisis, when it shrunk by 4.2 percent. Many trading partners in Europe, such as Germany and Italy, have suffered a slowdown, and trade tensions between the United States and China are also potential elements. But there is evidence to suggest that uncertainty around Britain's departure from the European Union was the main factor weighing on its economy, particularly on business investment. In the fourth quarter, business investment fell by 1.4 percent for the fourth straight quarterly decline, the first time since the financial crisis. Although the British economy held up better than expected after the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union, firms are getting edgier with less than 50 days to go to Brexit day on March 29. Trading relationships with the EU remain uncertain, and the British government had expected to work out a withdrawal agreement with the EU by now. Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to salvage the Brexit deal she agreed on with the EU late last year after being rejected by British lawmakers. With time running down, concerns have grown that Britain could leave the EU without a deal.