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UK high street sales fell by 2.7% in May, the biggest slump in more than two decades driven by political and economic uncertainty.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the figures were the worst since it began compiling data in January 1995, and that they could signal further job losses and store closures.

The BRC acknowledged the fall should be seen in the context of an unusually strong rise in May 2018 of 4.1%, when sales were boosted by warmer weather and a royal wedding. However, chief executive Helen Dickinson warned: “With retail conditions the toughest they have been for a decade, politicians must act to support the successful reinvention of our high streets and local communities.”

The BRC argued that business rates remain a key barrier to high street retail investment.