Anti-Brexit protesters are seen near the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. Image Credit: Reuters

LONDON. Official figures show that the British economy expanded by a solid quarterly rate of 0.5 per cent in the first three months of the year as firms geared up for the long-anticipated Brexit date.

Much of the growth reported by the Office for National Statistics on Friday was due to firms stockpiling raw materials and products ahead of Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU on March 29 — manufacturing output expanded by a hefty 2.2 per cent.

Overall growth was up from 0.2 per cent in the previous quarter.

After Parliament rejected the Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the EU, the Brexit date was extended to Oct. 31. As a result, economists expect growth to moderate in the second quarter as firms ease their stockpiling.