Brexit comes down to the wire as a deal beckons

On Thursday, the UK and EU announced they had agreed on a new withdrawal deal that could, in theory, get the UK over the line on Brexit and out of the EU.

To be honest – and I haven’t read the whole thing, you understand – the “new” deal sounds an awful lot like the old “Northern Ireland-only backstop” deal of 2017, which Theresa May rejected in favour of the “entire UK backstop” deal that Parliament rejected three or four times – I know, who can keep up?

There are a few differences – it seems like this new version will basically be a permanent backstop instead of a time-limited one but will allow Northern Ireland to benefit from new UK trade deals. But the basic idea is the same – Northern Ireland stays in the EU customs union and adheres to EU single market rules. Scotland and England are out. It remains an open question what the newly independence-minded Scots will make of this.

At any rate, whatever the merits of the “new” deal, it still faces a daunting task: being approved by a UK parliament that has a bad track record on approving Brexit deals. So, the whole no-deal Brexit is still, theoretically, on the table. Take a look at an intra-day chart of the pound versus the dollar, and spare a thought for Britain’s FX dealers.