Ministers quit over draft Brexit deal, pound and bank stocks tumble

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Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks about Brexit in the House of Commons, in central London. Reuters

LONDON, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May battled yesterday to save a draft divorce deal with the European Union after her Brexit secretary and other ministers quit in protest at an agreement they say will trap Britain in the bloc’s orbit for years.

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Ms May will fight for her premiership if lawmakers in her Conservative Party trigger a vote of confidence over the draft deal, her spokesman said yesterday.

Senior Eurosceptic lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg is to submit a letter of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May, The Daily Telegraph’s chief political correspondent said on Twitter, citing unnamed sources.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Brexit had strengthened the case for Scottish independence.

British financial regulators held a conference call with major banks seeking feedback on market conditions after the pound and financial stocks sank following Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s resignation, sources said. One source said the call was a direct request from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. The central bank declined to comment.

Britain’s financial services industry greeted the news of the draft agreement with weariness and worry, citing multiple hurdles the government must overcome before they can Brexit-proof their industry. Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland were down 7.3 percent, their biggest one-day fall since the June 2016 referendum. Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group dropped 6 percent each.

Sterling fell to a session low versus the euro on the report that Rees-Mogg will submit a letter of no confidence in Ms May. The pound sank to 88.52 pence to the euro, down 1.5 percent, and is set for its second biggest drop this year.

“We are experiencing huge sell orders and the sterling-dollar pair is in free fall for now”, Think Market analyst Naeem Aslam said. The dollar jumped and traders bought into the safe-haven yen.

Nerves among Britain government bond investors forced the country’s debt agency to accept low-ball bids for a 20-year bond at auction to an extent not seen since March 2009. Data from Refinitiv showed the spread between 10-year and 30-year gilt yields had ballooned by more than 11 basis points.

European shares reversed early gains, falling into negative territory in a broadbased rout, with autos and banking stocks leading the fallers. Investors also continued to fret about Rome’s standoff with Brussels and Washington’s row over trade with Beijing. Thee pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.5 percent, with German, Spanish and French bourses firmly in negative territory. Britain’s FTSE 100 was flat.

“We have been preparing for no-deal and we continue to prepare for no-deal because I recognise that we have a further stage of negotiation with the European Council and then that deal when finalised … has to come back to this House,” Ms May told the House of Commons.

“The choice is clear: We can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all, or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said, “We have a document on the table that Britain and the EU 27 have agreed to, so for me there is no question at the moment whether we negotiate further … You have to see the alternatives and then ask: is what we have a basis?”

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