Pound Cuts Gains as U.K. PM Drags Heels on Resuming Brexit Talks

The pound cut its gains against the greenback Tuesday, as the U.K. continues to dig in its heels over restarting trade talks with the EU and parts of Britain go into lockdown to curb virus infections.

GBP/USD fell 0.05% to $1.2940.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly told the Greek prime minister Brexit talks will remain paused until the EU changes its stance on the discussions.

“He reaffirmed that the EU have effectively ended those negotiations by stating they did not want to change their negotiating position,” Johnson’s spokesman said following the call with Prime Minster Kyriakos Mitsotakis. “Should the EU fundamentally change their position, then the UK would be willing to talk on that new basis.”

Issues including fishing access and state aid rules have held up progress on talks.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier who just a day earlier extended an olive branch after suggesting that the bloc was committed to intensifying talks called on the U.K. to “make the most of the little time left” with just months ago until the end of the transition period at year-end.

Without a trade deal, the U.K. will trade with the EU on World Trade Organization trade terms, which many have said will hurt growth, particularly a time when Britain has resumed some lockdown to curb a surge in cases.

Johnson confirmed Greater Manchester would be going into the highest level of lockdown – Tier 3 – from 12.01am on Friday morning.

Coronavirus infections in the U.K. soared by 21,330 since Monday, the highest one-day rise since June 5.

The prime minister also had to contend with a widely expected defeat in Parliament as his internal markets bill, which seeks to undermine parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, was voted down.

Sterling remains vulnerable until there is meaningful progress on talks, analysts have warned.

“A true breakthrough would be the news that an agreement has been reached on the issue of fishing. That would be more suited to justifying strong Sterling appreciation as this is one of the real stumbling blocks in the negotiations. Until that is reached, I would remain cautious as a Sterling bull,” Commerzbank (DE:CBKG) strategist Thu Lan Nguyen said.