The London stock market and the pound rose today as investors were buoyed by the UK and European Union on the verge of signing a post-Brexit trade deal – but nervous about the economic impact of more mutated strains of coronavirus.
The FTSE 100 index closed early that Christmas at 12:30 p.m., up 0.1 percent, or six points, to 6,502, while the pound was up 0.53 percent against the dollar to $ 1.3578.
The FTSE was up nearly 0.5 percent in early trading this morning to 6,527 in hopes the Brexit deal will be signed today but fell back and closed only slightly higher.
Gains in the markets have been tempered by concerns over a second new strain of Covid-19, with Britain imposing a travel ban on South Africa and millions more people facing the toughest coronavirus restrictions since Boxing Day.
An announcement of the Brexit deal – four years after the country voted to leave the EU – is expected later today, after talks on the details continued overnight.
The UK and the EU are said to have made progress in solving problems such as fishing rights and level playing field measures to prevent unfair competition.
Meanwhile, feelings flared in Kent when the French reopened the border to allow trucks to cross the canal for the first time since emergency restrictions were in place.
The pound has gained 1.4 percent against the dollar since 1:30 p.m. yesterday when Reuters first cited sources saying a Brexit deal was imminent.
The currency is now returning towards the two and a half year high of $ 1.3625 hit last week. Against the euro, the pound rose 0.54 percent to 1.1137 euros.
The pound was up 0.5% against the dollar today to $ 1.3584 as hopes of a Brexit deal increased
More than 6,000 trucks have been held in the county and drivers have been tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to travel to France. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps called for "patience" and said the work "keeps traffic rolling".
In response to developments in Brexit, Stephen Innes, Global Markets Strategist at Axi, said: "So the never-ending ups and downs of the Brexit headlines could lead to the conclusion of the most controversial divorce in human history."
The expected deal runs just days before the current trade agreements expire on December 31st. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a nightly call to Cabinet Ministers to keep them updated on the situation.
He has been in close contact with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, for the past few days as efforts at the highest levels intensified to get an agreement across the line. The couple are expected to receive another call on Christmas Eve to set up the deal.
A deal on trade between the UK and the EU worth nearly £ 670 billion will bring some relief to executives.
If, as expected, it provides for duty-free and quota-free trade, the economic shock of breaking away from the EU internal market and the customs union will be alleviated.
The FTSE 100 index and the pound against the dollar are shown so far for the year 2020
A trader works in front of monitors at Hana Bank in Seoul, South Korea on Christmas Eve
The Bureau of Budgetary Responsibility had forecast that a no-deal Brexit in 2021 could wipe 2 percent of gross domestic product – a measure of the size of the economy – increasing the damage to jobs and livelihoods already caused by the coronavirus.
What happens next when a Brexit deal is closed?
If and when a package is finalized, MPs must pass laws that put it in the law books in time for the end of the transition period on January 1.
With Christmas Day tomorrow, this will likely happen next week. The Commons are being recalled from their festive break and may look at all stages of a bill in one day.
Approval of the package is virtually guaranteed as Boris Johnson has an 80-strong majority and Labor has indicated that it will at least abstain – if it doesn't support the deal.
In the meantime, Brussels will cut its own processes short. The EU Member State Council is expected to grant a “provisional” implementation before the deadline, instead of the European Parliament approving it in advance.
This has angered many MPs as they will be under massive pressure to sign the agreement once it is in place.
However, the details of the deal are being scrutinized to see where both sides have compromised.
While fears about the pandemic continued, Health Secretary Matt Hancock cautioned the "extremely worrying" new variant believed to be more transmissible than the mutant strain that led to the creation of the new Tier 4 restrictions.
As of 9 a.m. on Christmas Eve, visitors who have arrived in England or traveled through South Africa in the past 10 days will be banned from entry and direct flights will be banned, the Department of Transportation said.
The ban excludes cargo and cargo without passengers, and does not include UK and Irish nationals, visa holders and permanent residents who can enter but are required to self-isolate with their household for 10 days.
Normally applicable exceptions – even for employment-related exceptions – do not apply, and passengers who come to England from South Africa after 9 p.m. on Wednesday cannot be exempted from self-isolation through Test to Release.
Government figures showed an additional 744 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, the highest number since April 29, during the virus' first peak.
As of 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, there were another 39,237 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus. This was the highest number reported in a single day during the entire pandemic – although this is partly due to much more extensive testing.
Areas moving to Tier 4 from Boxing Day are: Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, those parts of Essex that are not yet Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire – including Portsmouth and Southampton, but with the exception of the New Forest.
A man is cleaning up the street outside 10 Downing Street in London this morning as the UK and the European Union are said to be on the cusp of a post-Brexit trade deal
Traffic blocked the roads around the port of Dover in Kent yesterday after French authorities announced the coronavirus ban had been lifted and travel from the UK could resume
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a nightly call to Cabinet Ministers last night to keep them informed of the situation surrounding the Brexit deal. He is pictured on Downing Street on December 13th
Tier 4 restrictions include a stay-at-home warning, restricting the mixing of households to two outdoors, and closing many stores, hairdressers, and gyms.
The measures come on top of Tier 3 restrictions like closing pubs and restaurants, with the exception of food stalls and deliveries.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including North Somerset Council Area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, and Cheshire and Warrington will all be escalated to Tier 3.
Cornwall and Herefordshire switch from Tier 1 to Tier 2. As a result of the changes, 24 million people will now live in Tier 4, or 43 percent of the population of England.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that due to a coronavirus variant in the UK, authorities would personally visit all travelers from the UK to ensure they were in quarantine.