Pound in focus as UK reaffirms red lines in Brexit talks 'end game'

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3 min read
UK's chief Brexit negotiator, Lord David Frost leaves the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy on Victoria Street, London, as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
UK's chief Brexit negotiator, Lord David Frost leaves the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy. Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images

The UK is insisting it will not give any ground on key issues such as sovereignty and fishing rights as Brexit trade negotiations enter yet another crunch week.

Lord David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, travelled to Belgium on Sunday to resume talks with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier.

The pound was down 0.2% against the euro at €1.1122 (GBPEUR=X) by mid-morning in London. Sterling was down 0.2% against the dollar (GBPUSD=X) to $1.3172.

Chart: Yahoo Finance
Chart: Yahoo Finance

Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi, said the pound was in “sharp focus” ahead of the latest round of negotiations.

Intense trade talks between the UK and EU have been ongoing since late October but are now entering what Klaus Baader, the head of Societe Generale’s global economics team, called the “end game”.

“We believe Thursday's European Council meeting may prove decisive for the future relationship between the EU and the UK,” Baader wrote in a note sent to clients on Sunday.

“Either there is a deal (or it is in the making) or EU leaders start actively preparing for no deal.”

On Sunday, Lord Frost said there had been “progress in a positive direction in recent days.” He said draft treaties were largely agreed.

However, he reaffirmed that the UK would not back down on key issues that have been sticking points in talks thus far, such as sovereignty and fishing rights. He said talks may yet fail.

“We are working to get a deal, but the only one that's possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade, and our waters,” he tweeted.

Health secretary Matt Hancock echoed this message on Monday morning.

“Our red lines haven’t changed and we’re preparing for whatever the outcome is,” he told Sky News. “Of course, our preference is to get a deal and that is open to the Europeans if they choose to make the progress that’s needed.”

WATCH: EU trade talks could be extended by ‘a few more days’

City observers are hopeful that personnel changes at the heart of government could lead to a more conciliatory attitude from the UK.

Lee Cain, the Prime Minister’s chief of communications, and Dominic Cummings, a senior advisor to Boris Johnson, both left Downing Street last week amid a reported power struggle. Both had worked on the Vote Leave campaign.

“With a number of the original Brexit advisors on the Leave campaign having now been sidelined, we’ll see if that makes a difference to the direction of talks,” said Jim Reid, a senior strategist at Deutsche Bank.

Reid said there was so far “no obvious signs of any softening in the UK stance.”

“Time is running out,” Reid wrote in a morning note sent to clients on Monday. “Any agreement document is expected to be several hundred legal pages long and needs to be translated into around 23 languages and then get ratified around Europe. So [it’s] a logistical challenge.”

European leaders will hold a teleconference on Thursday, which is seen as the new unofficial deadline in talks.

WATCH: What happens if no Brexit trade deal is struck?