Brexit Trade Deal Chances set at 30-40% in Downing Street: Reports

Downing Street

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The Prime Minister's office is reported to only see a 30-40% chance of a post-Brexit trade deal being agreed with the EU before the end of 2020, a number that is well below that assumed by financial markets.

A report by The Spectator's James Forsyth, for The Times, says that the reasons for Downing Street's pessimism resides with the issue of state aid, with other outstanding issues such as fisheries likely to be resolved.

According to a separate report in The Times, the UK will look to double the quote it sets for its fishermen, at the expense for the EU. It looks as though the final deal will involve some give-and-take around quote numbers.

Forsyth says the real sticking block to reaching a deal in fact lies with state aid rules whereby the UK government directly supports or stimulates a given industry or company via the provision of direct funds.

Such support won't be in the same vein as traditional industrial support, for example in steel or vehicle manufacturing, rather it will be directed at industries of the future.

In short, technology.

According to the report Johnson and his team want to be able to support UK technology companies to allow them to grow to scale, thereby ending dependence on U.S. and China technologies, which in turn benefit from huge state support.

"The bigger issue is Britain’s desire to use state aid to build up its own technology sector. The view in Downing Street is that this country needs to develop large technology companies at scale and that requires state involvement," says Forsyth.

The EU are nervous of this outcome and are demanding the UK lays out a policy on the matter, which will allow them to move forward and secure a deal.

The UK are however said to be hesitant to lay their cards on the deck.

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"It is tempting to imagine that all this talk of no deal is just more Brexit theatre; that the table will be kicked over in one last fight with Brussels, and then a deal will be done at the last with both sides claiming victory. But Boris Johnson is adamant on the state aid point," says Forsyth.

The question for Pound Sterling and other UK financial assets is whether the market holds similar 30-40% odds on a deal being reached, or whether there will have to be some downward adjustment.

There is a risk for those holding Sterling and looking to transact in foreign currencies that the Pound goes lower as markets ultimately lower their expectations for a deal.

Likewise, the market might see the threat of a no trade deal as being relatively more benign than in the past, courtesy of the structural shock provided by the covid-19 pandemic.

More likely though is the market sees through the bluffing of politicians on both sides and believes a late-minute deal will be reached as concessions are ultimately made.

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