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The UK economy may have grown at the slowest pace in more than three years in the first quarter, according to new estimates that could put a further cloud over the outlook.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimated on Friday that gross domestic product rose 0.3 percent, half the pace recorded in the last three months of 2015. That would be the worst performance since the fourth quarter of 2012, which was the last time the economy shrank.

The institute published the estimate after data showed the trade gap widened to the most in eight years and there was an unexpected decline in industrial production. With question marks over the pace of global growth and domestic confidence taking a hit in the buildup to Britain's European Union membership vote in June, the economy may be losing momentum.