Pound LIVE: GBP sterling plunges against euro and dollar after Boris Johnson gamble


THE pound plummeted against the euro and US dollar with Boris Johnson set to throw down the gauntlet to the EU.

The pound was 1.3089 dollars compared to 1.3115 dollars at the previous close at 8am this morning. The euro was also 0.8493 pounds compared to 0.8502 pounds at the previous close. Mr Johnson will use the prospect of a no deal Brexit at the end of 2020 to push Brussels into handing him a comprehensive free trade deal. The Prime Minister’s newly-empowered Government will this week introduce a law to the Brexit bill that would explicitly rule out any extension to the transition period beyond the end of next year. A Government official said: “Our manifesto made clear that we will not extend the implementation period and the new Withdrawal Agreement Bill will legally prohibit government agreeing to any extension.”

By enshrining in law not to extend the transition period beyond December 2020, Mr Johnson is cutting the amount of time has has to strike a deal from nearly three years.

If a free trade deal is not agreed with the EU within the next 12 months – a timeframe the EU is sceptical of – the trade relationship would then default to World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

But the pound has taken a hammering this morning as a result, plummeting more than a percentage point against the euro to €1.1941 at 9am.

This comes after sterling hit a three-year high of €1.1994 on Friday after Mr Johnson’s resounding victory in the general election and huge Parliamentary majority of 80 eased fears of a no deal Brexit.

Rupert Harrison, a portfolio manager at Blackrock, said Boris Johnson’s plans have impacted the pound greatly. 

He wrote on Twitter: “The simple fact of a majority won’t reduce uncertainty and bring back investment on its own. Needs the government to communicate that it has a long term horizon and has no intention of creating disruption

“There’s no need any more. Stop fighting the last war.

“Having said this, the economic benefits of a reduction in uncertainty will require the govt to, you know, actually help to reduce uncertainty…

“The fall back in the pound over the last 48 hours shows how fragile sentiment is.

“Number 10 need to realise their words have consequences.”

The pound has also fallen by a percentage point against the US dollar to $1.3203, having hit an 18-month peak of $1.3516 just 24 hours after last Thursday’s national vote.

The City had previously been concerned a no deal Brexit would have a catastrophic impact on the UK economy, with the pound falling against major currencies each time crashing out of the EU without an agreement in place has looked likely.

Financial markets and investors have reacted in shock at the lengths the Prime Minister is preparing to go in order to secure a trade deal with the EU within his reduced timeframe.

They have warned the move “sets up another cliff-edge” sending shivers through investors just as they thought there would be a period of stability.

Neil Wilson of Markets.com wrote: “Sterling tripped over its heels as Boris Johnson is looking to legislate for Britain to leave the EU fully in Dec 2020 with or without a trade deal. That means no possible way to extend the transition period.

Deutsche Bank has warned its clients the pound will likely weaken next year as renewed Brexit uncertainty threatens to drag the economy into recession.

The global bank said in a note: “Overnight news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will seek to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to prevent an extension of the Brexit transition period beyond the end of 2020 is a material negative.

“While it does not mean a disorderly Brexit is inevitable, it does mean that the optimistic view of a pivot towards a more pragmatic Brexit policy from the government early next year won’t materialise, and this in turn is likely to see growing recession risks for the UK next year.

“We do not believe the market is priced for these, and turn bearish on sterling, targeting 0.90 in EUR/GBP.”

Neil Wilson of Markets.com wrote: “Sterling tripped over its heels as Boris Johnson is looking to legislate for Britain to leave the EU fully in Dec 2020 with or without a trade deal. That means no possible way to extend the transition period.

“I must confess to believing he wouldn’t need to be so drastic, that a large majority offered the flexibility yet strength a Government craves in deal making.

“This sets up another cliff-edge and could create yet more months of uncertainty for investors just when we thought all was squared away.”

Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities, said: “It seems like the big majority Johnson won is enabling him to take a hard line approach, which the market doesn’t like so much.

“Considering the UK economy looks set to deteriorate as people and companies start to leave the country because of Brexit, sterling’s short-covering rally is over.”

Kit Juckes, foreign exchange analyst at Société Générale, said Mr Johnson’s new hard line on post-Brexit trade talks has caught the markets by surprise.

The financial expert wrote: “The news that UK PM Johnson plans to rule out (legally) any extension to the transition period after the UK leaves the EU has given sterling a kicking this morning.

“Those who thought that a big majority would free the PM to take a patient approach to negotiate the best possible deal, have been caught by surprise. And that’s most UK economists and strategists.

Dean Turner, an economist at UBS Wealth Management, has warned the pound will continue to remain highly volatile over the coming weeks and months.

He said: “The pound’s latest slide is symptomatic of the fact that Brexit is a way off being “done”, and will remain important for sterling over the coming months.

“Despite the Prime Minister’s new-found majority spurring a relief rally, gains were always likely to be capped as investors turned their attention to phase two of the talks.

“The deadline for extending the UK’s transition period beyond the end of next year comes on 1 July.

“The risk of the UK reverting to trading with the EU on WTO terms could still drive larger GBP moves, particularly given the latest noises coming out of Downing Street.

“We expect a trading range between 1.30 and 1.40 until June.”

UK firms more exposed to the domestic economy have also taken a huge hit, with the FTSE 100 slipping 0.2 percent.

The midcap FTSE 250 fared worse and gave up 0.8 percent. The index had hit successive all-time highs in the last two sessions after Mr Johnson’s election victory seemingly cleared a path for Brexit.

Michael Hewson of CMC Markets said: “In essence all of the big gainers of the past few days are giving back some of their gains as the reality check of the possibility of a no deal Brexit, while still over a year away, has tempered some of the enthusiasm from last Thursday’s election result.”

Senior EU figures, including chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, are sceptical that a free trade deal can be agreed within the next 12 months.

A comprehensive trade deal would have to encompass everything from financial services and rules of origins to tariffs, state aid rules and fishing.

The EU is hopeful of beginning trade talks with the UK in March, leaving less than 10 months to strike a deal and get it approved by London and the EU, including member states’ Parliaments.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove attempted to ease fears of a harder Brexit and scepticism over the reduced transition period timeframe, insisting the UK will agree a free trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020.

He told BBC Breakfast this morning: “We are going to leave the European Union on January 31 because of the withdrawal agreement.

“Then the political declaration, which goes alongside the withdrawal agreement, commits both sides to making sure that the follow-up conversations are concluded by the end of 2020.”

Mr Gove also denied the December 2020 deadline would not be met.

He added: “No. We are going to make sure we get this deal done in time.”

Britain’s financial system is now prepared to the the worst-case Brexit scenario with a hard exit from the EU and a consequent trade war, the Bank of England has said.

All of the country’s major banks survived this years’s “stress tests” conducted by the Bank, which aim to look at how the country’s financial sector would cope in the event of a hard Brexit.

The scenario involves a UK recession with GDP plummeting 4.7 percent, with interest rates rising to four percent and the unemployment rate rising to 9.2 percent.

None of the major banks failed them, but Barclays and Lloyds would have had to trigger emergency debt-to-equity conversions, on the basis of new accountancy changes coming in from 2023.

The Bank of England’s financial policy committee said: “The core of the UK financial system, including banks, dealers and insurance companies, was resilient to, and prepared for, the wide range of UK economic and financial shocks that could be associated with a worst-case disorderly Brexit.”

Britain’s unemployment rate has remained at its lowest level in 45 years, but the pound has been further hit after new figures revealed wage growth had slowed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in the three months to October – matching last month’s reading.

The ONS said: “For August to October 2019, an estimated 1.28 million people were unemployed. This is 93,000 fewer than a year earlier and 673,000 fewer than five years earlier.”

But average earnings increased by just 3.5 percent per annum during the quarter – down from 3.5 percent a month ago.

While it does not mean a disorderly Brexit is inevitable, it does mean that the optimistic view of a pivot towards a more pragmatic Brexit policy from the government early next year won’t materialise, and this in turn is likely to see growing recession


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