Major investment banks said on Friday that they had become more optimistic on the prospects for a Brexit deal, following an upbeat meeting between British and Irish leaders that buoyed the pound.
Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday that a withdrawal agreement could be clinched by the end of October, which would allow the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in an orderly fashion.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart Stephen Barclay, meanwhile, held a ‘constructive’ meeting on Friday, both the British and EU sides said.
The pound, British stocks, bonds, and Irish government bonds rallied as investors scrambled to cover short positions, with the British currency hitting its highest levels in more than three months. It was trading at $1.2675 at 15:00 Greenwich Mean Time.
Deutsche Bank said that it was no longer negative on the pound.
‘This represents a significant change of tune by the Irish government, that has so far been relatively pessimistic about the prospect of talks moving forward,’ Deutsche’s foreign exchange strategist Oliver Harvey told clients.
JP Morgan, meanwhile, predicted a deal would be struck, noting the two sides appeared to have found a solution to the thorny Irish border issue.
The bank now sees a 50 per cent chance of a withdrawal agreement being struck with a ‘modified/timelimited’ Irish ‘backstop’ that could get round a major sticking point over customs and border arrangements between Ireland and the UK province of Northern Ireland.
It had previously put the likelihood at just 5 per cent.
Some remain doubtful. For one, time is short and any deal British prime minister Boris Johnson brings back from Brussels will need the British parliament’s approval, including from hard-line pro-Brexit factions.
The British government was therefore likely to request an extension to the Brexit deadline and then hold a general election, UBS Wealth Management said. But it acknowledged that the chances of a Brexit agreement had nonetheless increased.
‘The chances of a deal seem to have improved and the pound has moved accordingly but hurdles still remain,’ said Dean Turner, economist at the wealth manager.
‘Time to thrash out the details of the deal is tight, and then there is the question of parliamentary approval.’
A deal would prolong the rally in the pound, Turner said, predicting sterling would hit $1.35 and trade in the ‘low 80s’ against the euro if there was an agreement.
Morgan Stanley upped its chances of a Brexit deal to 55 per cent from 35 per cent before the latest developments.
The investment bank said that a deal would be negotiable if London agreed to a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, although it was uncertain such an arrangement would be approved by the current parliament.
‘We continue to see elections as the most plausible mechanism to decide the way forward on Brexit and expect them to be held before Brexit,’ the bank’s economists Jacob Nell and Brunca Skarica wrote in a note to clients.
‘However, given that a Johnson government seems to have switched to supporting a negotiable deal, we now see a significantly reduced risk of a no-deal outcome after elections, since even a Johnson government would prefer an orderly exit to a no-deal outcome.’
Goldman Sachs was ahead of the bunch, however, sending a recommendation late last Friday for clients to buy sterling against the dollar, with a target of $1.30 compared with the then spot pound value of around $1.23.
It assessed the probabilities of a Brexit deal being struck at 60 per cent.
Political risk consultancy Eurasia Group raised its probability of a Brexit deal from 5 per cent to 10 per cent. But barriers to one were still substantial, it cautioned.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Banking