British pound lower after UK lawmakers vote on key Brexit amendments

  • The so-called Cooper amendment was defeated by a vote of 321 to 298. If it had passed, it would have sought to rule out a no-deal Brexit by giving the government more time to reach a formal agreement with the EU.
  • The Brexit deadline is currently set for March 29, but the bill would have pushed back that date to Dec. 31.
Leave means leave pro Brexit anti Europe demonstrator protests with a 'to delay is to betray' placard in Westminster opposite Parliament on the day MPs vote on EU withdrawal deal amendments on 29th January 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom.
Mike Kemp | In Pictures | Getty Images
Leave means leave pro Brexit anti Europe demonstrator protests with a 'to delay is to betray' placard in Westminster opposite Parliament on the day MPs vote on EU withdrawal deal amendments on 29th January 2019 in London, England, United Kingdom.

The British pound fell to its lows of the day Tuesday after an amendment that would have delayed the U.K.'s exit from the European Union in the event both parties did not have a deal in place was voted down by Parliament.

Sterling fell 0.6 percent to $1.307 against the U.S. dollar following the vote. Prior to that, it had traded around the flatline versus the greenback.

The so-called Cooper amendment was defeated by a vote of 321 to 298. Named after Labour opposition lawmaker Yvette Cooper, the amendment would have sought to rule out a no-deal Brexit by giving the government more time to reach a formal agreement with the EU.

The Brexit deadline is currently set for March 29, but the bill would have pushed back that date to Dec. 31. Thus it would have diminished the chances of a no deal — which is widely seen as being a negative for the U.K economy where the country would have to rely on World Trade Organization rules for trade.

Like all amendments being voted on by the U.K. Parliament on Tuesday evening it would have required backing by the EU. Brussels has stated that it is not willing to budge on the Withdrawal Agreement that it agreed with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May at the end of 2018.

Brady amendment passed

Later on Tuesday evening, members of Parliament passed another amendment which called for the controversial Irish backstop to be replaced by an alternative.

The vote, put forward by Conservative lawmaker Graham Brady, was won by 317 votes to 301, and is likely to secure more support for May's proposals. Therefore it could potentially strengthen her hand when she returns to Brussels to thrash out adjustments to her plans. Sterling briefly spiked but then tracked slightly lower after the vote was announced.

The Irish backstop is essentially a legally-binding insurance policy to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland whatever the outcome of future trade talks between the U.K. and the EU. It is disliked by many lawmakers who argue that it could tie the U.K. with the EU for an indefinite amount of time.

U.K. lawmakers are still trying to wrangle a formal agreement with the EU for Brexit, after May's initial proposals were overwhelmingly rejected in the U.K. Parliament on Jan. 15. May lost that vote by 230 in what was the largest defeat for a sitting government in U.K. political history.

May has since sought to speak to a broad range of politicians to gauge possible ways forward for Brexit. She has also reportedly spoken to key EU officials and politicians on Tuesday, highlighting her intention to reopen negotiations.

British citizens voted in favor of leaving the European Union in June 2016, a decision that sent ripples across global financial markets.