Britain's goods trade deficit widened in September to its highest since the series began in 1998 after a record rise in imports, official data showed on Wednesday.

The Office for National Statistics said that Britain's goods trade deficit widened to 9.814 billion pounds in September from an upwardly revised 8.617 billion pounds in August. Economists had forecast a much smaller widening in the deficit to 8.0 billion pounds.

The rise in the deficit was driven by a 1.2 billion pound surge in imports to 34.273 billion pounds, a series high and which reflected imports of oil, chemicals and silver. Exports, meanwhile, rose by less than 0.1 billion pounds.

The ONS said there were bigger than usual changes to the August data, following a seasonal adjustment review and revised data from the tax authorities -- which is the main source of data -- and resulted in August's rise in exports being revised away.

The goods trade gap with non-EU countries widened to 5.715 billion pounds in September from an upwardly revised 5.142 billion pounds in August. That was the highest since December 2010 and well above forecasts for a deficit of 4.88 billion pounds.

The economy has barely grown in the last year and policymakers are worried that a sharp slowdown in Britain's main trading partners could tip the UK back into recession.

The Bank of England last month resumed its quantitative easing programme with a 75 billion pound cash injection aimed at shoring up the recovery.

Many economists reckon the central bank will have to add more cash in February as the spiralling debt crisis presents a further threat to economic prospects.

Policymakers have long hoped that manufacturing will help drive the recovery, but output growth has been hit by falling demand for exports, while cash-strapped Britons are increasingly reining in spending, hurting domestic demand.