British retail sales plunged in August at the fastest pace since December 2008, according to a survey. 

The finding will likely raise further questions about the economy's strength ahead of Brexit in October.

The Confederation of British Industry's monthly gauge of retailers fell to -49 in August from -16 in July.

That's the second weakest reading since records began in 1983 and worse than all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists that had pointed to a rise to -11.

"Sentiment is crumbling among retailers, and unexpectedly weak sales have led to a large overhang of stocks," CBI deputy chief economist Anna Leach said.

"With investment intentions for the year ahead and employment down, retailers expect a chilly few months ahead."