LONDON, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Lending to British consumers slowed to its weakest rate in more than five years in August, adding to signs that household demand may be softening in the run-up to Britain's departure from the European Union, Bank of England figures showed on Monday. The BoE data showed the growth rate in unsecured consumer lending fell to 5.4% in the year to August from 5.6% in July, its weakest annual growth rate since March 2014. Consumer demand has been relatively robust since June 2016's Brexit vote, but there have been tentative signs of a slowdown in recent weeks, with some measures of household sentiment at their lowest ebb in around six years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31, without a transition deal if necessary, despite a vote in parliament to block a no-deal Brexit next month. In August alone, consumer lending rose by 0.901 billion pounds, in line with economists' forecasts in a Reuters poll but down from 1.007 billion pounds in July. The BoE said the number of mortgages approved for house purchase dropped to 65,545 in August from 67,011 in July, below all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists. Last week industry body UK Finance reported a small fall in the number of mortgages approved for house purchase by high-street banks in August, but a rise in refinancing took the total number of mortgages approved to its highest since December 2016. Net mortgage lending on UK Finance's measure was the highest since March 2016, but this was not reflected in the BoE data, which showed monthly growth of 3.854 billion pounds in August, down from July's 4.521 billion and also below all forecasts. British house price growth has slowed since 2016's Brexit referendum - with price falls in London and some neighboring areas - and nationally price growth is around 1%, according to figures from the country's two main mortgage lenders. (Reporting by David Milliken and Josephine Mason)