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EU's Oettinger hopeful about Jan Brexit vote

There is still a chance that Britain's Parliament will vote in favour of deal, says budget commissioner

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Mr Oettinger says that the likelihood of Britain remaining in the EU has increased slightly over the past few months.

Berlin

EUROPEAN Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Thursday there is still a chance that Britain's Parliament will vote in favour of the Brexit agreement in January and that there was no public support for a disorderly Brexit or another referendum.

Prime Minister Theresa May has struck a withdrawal agreement with Brussels but she was forced to postpone a parliamentary vote on it earlier this month after admitting she would lose by a large margin. Britain is due to leave the European Union (EU) on March 29.

"It is not entirely unlikely that the British parliament will vote for the divorce agreement in January," Mr Oettinger told Funke Media Group in an interview. "There is certainly no majority for a disorderly Brexit or for a new referendum."

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Mr Oettinger said that the likelihood of Britain remaining in the EU had increased slightly over the past few months. "Nevertheless, I assume that it will come to an exit at the end of March," added Mr Oettinger, the EU's budget commissioner.

Sterling held above a three-day low on Thursday as investors remained sidelined awaiting another round of Brexit developments, as a broadly weaker US dollar offered some support to the struggling British currency.

Against the US dollar, the pound was broadly steady at US$1.2635 after climbing as much as 0.2 per cent to US$1.2665 in the Asian session. Versus the euro, the pound was down 0.4 per cent at 90.14 pence.

"There are a lot of cross-currents in the market today with the dollar struggling to gain momentum and other currencies awaiting major developments," said Manuel Oliveri, a currency strategist at Credit Agricole in London.

Business leaders' confidence in the British economy has sunk to its lowest level in more than 18 months as the risk of a no-deal Brexit in a little over three months grows, the Institute of Directors (IoD) said on Thursday.

The group, which represents business directors and leaders, said its confidence tracker briefly reached positive territory earlier this year when there was agreement on a Brexit transition period, but had fallen steadily since April and hit its lowest level this month.

IoD senior economist Tej Parikh said that there was no doubt that the tumultuous Brexit process was having a damaging impact on firms' outlooks. "Business leaders are looking ahead to the new year with trepidation about the economy," he noted. REUTERS