European figures show that Ireland had the third largest trade surplus in the EU between January and March this year.

Ireland's surplus of €10.3 billion was exceeded only by Germany's surplus of €45 billion and the Netherlands' €11.8 billion surplus.

Ireland's exports grew by 1% when compared with the first three months of 2011 and the level of imports were unchanged.

The UK had the largest deficit, €37.1 billion, followed by France at€21.6 billion and Spain's €10.7billion.

Britain's trade deficit widened sharply in April according to the Office for National Statistics.

The increase is attributed to a slide in exports world-wide, according to the data.

The deficit stood at £10.1 billion in the month compared with £8.7 billion in March.

Market expectations had been for an April deficit of £8.5 billion.