The UK manufacturing sector contracted in May for the first time since July 2016 as stockpiling eased ahead of Brexit, an influential survey shows.

The research, by IHS Markit/CIPS, said firms found difficulty convincing clients to commit to new contracts.

The manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was 49.4, down from 53.1 in April when it was lifted by stockpiling ahead of the UK’s expected EU exit.

Any reading below 50 indicates contraction.

The last time there was a reading below 50 was the month after the EU referendum.

The volume of new business fell for the first time in seven months and at one of the fastest rates recorded by the survey in the past six-and-a-half years.

Rob Dobson, director at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey, said new order

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