Sterling and the London stock market opened higher today as Prime Minister Theresa May declared Brexit talks were in the “endgame”.
An agreement must be reached by tomorrow, it is said, if there is to be a European Union summit this month to have any deal approved.
Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet last night, Mrs May said: “The negotiations for our departure are now in the endgame. And we are working extremely hard, through the night, to make progress on remaining issues in the withdrawal agreement, which are significant.”
Shares rise across Europe
The EU’s chief negotiator Michael Barnier said an outline deal was ready to be agreed by the Cabinet today.
On the stock market, the blue-chip FTSE 100 Index was 0.33% higher at 7,076.16, while the FTSE 250 index, which is more reflective of British domestic businesses, was 0.42% up at 18,889.96.
Continental exchanges were also positive, with Frankfurt’s DAX rising 0.46% to 11,377.16 and the Cac 40 in Paris being 0.36% higher at 5,077.11. In Amsterdam, the AEX was 0.29% higher at 527.63, and in Madrid the IBEX 35 was up 0.19% at 9,093.30.
This contrasted with the performance of Wall Street overnight, where the Dow Jones Index closed down 2.32% at 25,387.18 and the Standard & Poor’s 500 was 1.97% lower at 2,726.22. The tech-focused NASDAQ closed down 2.78% at 7,200.87.
A measure of caution
Britain is trying to square the circle between a number of pledges. One was that there would be no “hard border” between the two jurisdictions, another that there could be no question of leaving Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU while taking the rest of the UK out, thus creating a new “border” in the Irish Sea.
A third pledge was that the UK would be leaving the customs union.
The intractability of this issue has been striking, given that it played such a small part in the 2016 referendum campaign the result of which was a vote to leave the EU.
"But as the PM has said, it can't be a deal at any price. It has got to be one that works in terms of feeling we can deliver on the referendum result and that is why there is a measure of caution."
Any deal must be approved by both the Cabinet and Parliament. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.