The British pound rose sharply on Friday morning after U.K. Cabinet misters revealed that a delay to the official Brexit date looks increasingly likely.
The U.K.’s Evening Standard newspaper said that key lawmakers believed a delay on the departure date was probable, due to “a backlog of at least six essential bills that must be passed before Britain leaves the European Union.”
A senior minister told the publication: “The legislative timetable is now very very tight indeed.” “Certainly, if there was defeat on Tuesday and it took some time before it got resolved, it’s hard to see how we can get all the legislation through by March 29.”
Sterling shot higher on the news. It had been trading close to 1.272 against the dollar at 9:00 a.m. London time, but soared to $1.284 by 11:00 a.m. before erasing some of those gains.
The U.K. was officially set to leave the EU on March 29 this year but a delay to that date is likely to diminish the chances of a no-deal Brexit, something that market watchers have been concerned about over recent months.
A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May immediately tried to quash the report, saying the U.K. leader has already ruled out extending the deadline. Any delay to the date would have to be approved by the remaining 27 EU leaders.
British lawmakers are set to vote on May‘s much-maligned Brexit deal on Tuesday. Remarkably, May’s template to exit the bloc faces virtually certain defeat. That leaves the prospect of a complete collapse of government, a disorderly exit from the bloc or even the entire Brexit process being scrapped altogether over the coming weeks.