The unexpected news that British GDP shrank in the third quarter highlights an economic gap between Britain and healthier continental rivals
A string of new economic data suggests the UK's recovery is being left behind the EU's large continental countries.
Data produced by the UK's Office for National Statistics showed the economy unexpectedly contracted by 0.4 percent of gross domestic product between July and September of this year.
Analysts had been predicting that GDP – a measure of all the goods and services produced by a country – would rise by 0.2 percent.
The provisional data compare poorly with that from continental powerhouses France and Germany, both of which recorded positive growth as far back as the second quarter of 2009.
"There are many millions of people who will be deeply concerned to see that Britain is still in recession six months after France and Germany came out of recession," said the UK's Conservative party shadow finance minister, George Osborne.
"It destroys the myth that Britain was better prepared [for the crisis]", he said.
Other figures produced by the EU's statistics office – also out on Friday (23 October) – seemed to confirm this trend.
The EU saw industrial new orders for the 27-member bloc rise by 1.2 percent in August compared to the previous month, but with considerable variation among member states.
The highest increases were registered in Slovakia (up 11.8 percent), the Czech Republic (up 3.2 percent) and France (up 3.0 percent).
The largest declines were seen in Ireland (down 14.6 percent), Poland (down 10.6 percent) and Italy (down 6.4 percent), with the UK also slightly in the negative (down 0.3 percent).
Further national figures released in Germany and France also pointed to recovery.
Household consumption in France was up 2.3 percent in September from August, with the country's economy minister, Christine Lagarde, describing the situation as "encouraging".
However, Spain had to contend with news that the country's unemployment rate is not coming down.
Data from the country's statistics agency said unemployment for the third quarter of 2009 remained on 17.9 percent, the highest level among EU member states.
Over four million people are currently unemployed in Spain, a country which suffered badly when activity in its booming construction sector came to an abrupt halt in the wake of the global financial crisis.