LONDON (Reuters) - British factory orders improved in the three months to June, according to an industry survey published on Tuesday, a latest sign that a slowdown in the economy before Thursday's European Union referendum might not be as sharp as some forecasts.

The Confederation of British Industry said the factory order book balance rose to -2 from -8 in May while a measure of export orders held steady at -14.

The CBI said the survey of 482 manufacturers showed the slight improvement was led by the food and drink and the motor vehicles and transport sectors.

Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI's chief economist, said the recent fall in the value of the pound appeared to have been of little help for exporters.


"It may be that the growing uncertainty in the run-up to the EU referendum, combined with global risks elsewhere, has offset some of the benefits of a weaker currency at this time," she said in a statement.

Britain's overall economic growth slowed in the first three months of the year and some other surveys have suggested a further deceleration ahead of the June 23 referendum. However, recent data on retail sales and the labor market have shown a stronger underlying picture than some of the gloomier forecasts.

The CBI survey showed expectations for factory orders in the three months ahead improved to +23, returning to their level of March.

(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce)