London’s blue-chip share index was higher this morning, despite huge uncertainties about the Brexit process.
The FTSE 100 index was 0.07% up at 7,041.27, but this may have had more to do with a generally-buoyant equity scene across Europe than with any particular optimism about the outlook for the UK.
With about 70% of FTSE companies’ revenue earned outside Britain, the index is a far from a perfect representation of the country’s economic prospects.
Sunny performance by continental stocks
Far more closely aligned with domestic business and industry is the FTSE 250 index, and this, perhaps ominously, was 0.33% lower this morning at 18,657.00.
Sterling, too, was lower as former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon criticised the agreement struck by Prime Minister Theresa May with her fellow European Union leaders. He said the deal would give Britain the worst of all worlds and said it ought to be renegotiated, something both the EU’s institutions and its national leaders have ruled out.
In Amsterdam, the AEX was 0.26% also higher at 520.28, while in Madrid the IBEX was up 0.7% at 9,154.90.
Crunch vote draws near
Sir Michael, until now seen as an ally of Mrs May, told BBC Radio: "My fear is that this deal gives us the worst of all worlds – no guarantee of smooth trade in the future and no ability to reduce the tariffs that we need to conclude trade deals with the rest of the world. "So, unless the House of Commons can be persuaded somehow that those are possible, then I think, yes, the deal is doomed."
MPs will vote on the deal on 11 December, and at present the betting is that there is no majority in Parliament to support it. Should it be rejected, there is no clear path forward.
Some suggest Parliament could vote to stop Britain automatically leaving the EU on 29 March without a deal, while others say this would not be possible. The survival of the Prime Minister could be in doubt, and the Government may face a vote of no confidence.
Mrs May has been accused of uniting both those who back Brexit and those who hope some way can be found to keep Britain in the EU in their dislike of her deal. The current turbulence has been compared to that surround the 1956 Suez crisis and the countdown to war in the late Thirties.