Britain’s manufacturers have seen factory orders jump to their highest level in more than two years despite concerns that the UK economy is slowing, according to a report.

The Confederation of British Industry Industrial Trends Survey said total order books beat expectations to plus nine per cent in May, up from plus four per cent in April, its biggest rise since February 2015.

Output growth recorded its fastest rise since December 2013 at plus 28 per cent, thanks to a strong performance from the mechanical engineering and chemicals sector.

Exports orders also equalled a four-year high last seen in March, reaching plus 10 per cent.

However, the industry continued to grapple with pressure on prices, as the Brexit-hit pound pushes up the cost of imported materials.

CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said: “The summer sun has come out early for Britain’s manufacturers.

“Robust demand at both home and abroad is reflected in strong order books, and output is picking up the pace.

“On the other side of the coin, though, we have mounting cost pressures and expectations for factory-gate price rises are running high.

“Boosting productivity is key to alleviating some of the cost pressures that manufacturers are facing. Sustained investment in innovation and education will be vital to shore up the success of British industry.”

The survey, which gathered responses from 432 manufacturers, said 37 per cent of firms are expecting output growth over the coming quarter, with 10 per cent expecting a decline, leaving the balance at plus 28 per cent.

Manufacturing figures from the Office For National Statistics showed output fell 0.6 per cent in March, but recent industry surveys have painted a brighter picture.

The Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing purchasing managers’ index for April showed activity had leapt to a three-year high on the back of strong domestic and overseas demand.