Johnson ‘Confident’ of Deal as Pound Falls: Brexit Update
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson tours HMS Vengeance during his visit to the Naval Base in Faslane, Scotland. (Source: PTI) 

Johnson ‘Confident’ of Deal as Pound Falls: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) --

Boris Johnson is in Scotland for crunch meetings with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson, who warned the prime minister she will never support his fall-back plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union without an agreement. The pound fell to a two-year low as Johnson’s government ramps up preparations to leave the bloc, come what may, on Oct. 31.

Key Developments:

  • Pound falls to lowest since 2017 on no-deal Brexit fears
  • PM is in Scotland to boost union of U.K.’s four nations
  • Johnson is meeting Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
  • Johnson sets up cabinet groups to prepare for no-deal Brexit
  • Foreign Secretary Raab attacks business leaders’ warnings as “unbalanced”

EU Stands Firm (3:20 p.m.)

Despite Boris Johnson’s insistence that a new Brexit deal is possible (see 2:10 p.m.), there’s no sign of the European Union shifting its position. A European Commission spokeswoman reiterated Monday that while an orderly withdrawal is in everyone’s interest, the bloc is well-prepared for a no-deal Brexit. The spokeswoman declined to comment on Johnson’s vow to “turbo-charge” preparations for leaving without an agreement.

The bloc has repeatedly said that the withdrawal agreement negotiated with Theresa May -- but rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament -- is not up for renegotiation, and that the backstop provision for the Irish border can’t be removed. The only way to make the measure redundant, according to the bloc, is for the U.K. to change its red lines and opt to stay in the EU’s single market and the customs union. Johnson has pledged not to do this.

The question is whether the impasse can or will be broken. Johnson is expected to talk to more EU leaders, including Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, in the coming days. But phone calls with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week appeared to yield no breakthrough.

U.K., Irish Governments in Contact on Brexit (2:50 p.m.)

Ireland and the U.K. are in contact at official level on Brexit, an Irish government spokesman confirmed, adding that Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and his U.K. counterpart Boris Johnson will speak directly in the near future.

While Johnson insists the Irish border backstop must be abolished for there to be a Brexit deal, Varadkar remains adamant it cannot be dropped from the agreement negotiated between Theresa May and Brussels.

Johnson Says New Deal Still Likely as Pound Dives (2:10 p.m.)

The pound fell more than 1% against the dollar to its lowest level since 2017 on fears of a no-deal Brexit. But Johnson insisted a deal was possible.

“We’re very confident, with goodwill on both sides, two mature political entities, the U.K. and EU, can get this done,” Johnson told a TV crew during his trip to Scotland. “It’s responsible for any government to prepare for a no deal if we absolutely have to. That’s the message I’ve been getting across to our European friends. I’m very confident we’ll get there.”

The key point for the EU to understand is that the backstop is “dead,” along with Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, but there is “scope to do a new deal.” Johnson said the U.K. government is talking to Irish government on Monday, to set out “the limits” and aims for a new deal.

Coveney Says Divorce Deal Is Closed (12:45 p.m.)

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney spoke to his U.K. counterpart Dominic Raab on Friday, according to a spokesman. The pair had a good and frank conversation, in which Coveney reiterated that the Brexit withdrawal agreement is closed, said the spokesman, who added that they agreed to stay in close contact.

The conversation, which came after Coveney had warned the U.K. was on a collision course with the European Union, is the highest level contact so far between the two countries since Boris Johnson took over as prime minister. Johnson is expected to speak to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the coming days, according to a U.K. official.

Ryanair CEO: No-Deal Risk Has Increased (12:40 p.m.)

Michael O’Leary, chief executive officer at Ryanair Holdings Plc, said the risk of a no-deal Brexit has “significantly, materially increased” under Boris Johnson’s new government.

O’Leary said he doesn’t expect a disruption to flights at the budget airline this winter or next summer because the EU and U.K. will re-issue interim arrangements agreed prior to the March 29 deadline that will last for 9 to 12 months. But he warned that after that, there would be “material changes” in flight rights and ownership rules.

“The U.K. domestic routes would come under question,” he said on a conference call Monday.

Johnson Plans to Talk to More EU Leaders (12 p.m.)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak to more European leaders over the coming days, and has also been clear he wants to meet them, spokeswoman Alison Donnelly told reporters on Monday.

Johnson ‘Confident’ of Deal as Pound Falls: Brexit Update

The government hopes the EU will change its mind on reopening the Brexit withdrawal agreement, Donnelly said, reiterating that the backstop -- the provision meant to keep the Irish border open -- must be removed.

While the government would prefer to leave with a deal, Donnelly said, its “central scenario” is to do so without one unless the EU shifts its position.

Raab: CBI too ‘Pessimistic’ About Brexit (Earlier)

The new Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab took a hard line with Britain’s highest profile business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry. The CBI had earlier warned that neither the U.K. nor the EU are ready for a no-deal divorce.

Raab was not impressed. “They take an unbalanced view, an unbalanced assessment,” Raab told LBC Radio. He described the CBI as “skeptical” and “pessimistic” about the risks of Brexit.

Letwin in Talks with Labour, Others (Earlier)

Conservative Member of Parliament Oliver Letwin, part of a rebel group that includes some Labour MPs seeking to stop a no-deal Brexit, said his colleagues could find a way to amend legislation to prevent the U.K. leaving with no divorce agreement.

“The mechanical problems we can overcome,” Letwin told BBC radio. “The difficult thing is to get a majority in Parliament for some other course of action at the last moment if there isn’t a deal.” Letwin said there is a “natural majority” of parliamentarians against a no-deal Brexit, but whether they would vote to block it would remain unknown “right up until the last moment.”

Earlier:

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