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Pound falls on Brexit divorce

British Prime Minister Theresa May accused the European Union on Friday of creating an "impasse" in divorce negotiations by bluntly rejecting her blueprint for Brexit, sending the value of the pound falling as worries about a chaotic U.K. exit from the EU soared.

With British newspapers declaring that May had been "humiliated" by EU leaders, the prime minister used a televised statement from 10 Downing St. to insist she was prepared to take Britain out of the bloc without a deal if it did not treat the country with more respect.

Declaring that "we are at an impasse," May said the EU must lay out "what the real issues are and what their alternative is."

"Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect," she said. "The U.K. expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it."

The pound fell 1.5 per cent to $1.3066 on May's comments, which seemed to make the prospect of an economically disruptive "no deal" Brexit more likely.

May's strong words belied her weak position: She is a prime minister without a parliamentary majority, caught between the EU and a pro-Brexit wing of her Conservative Party that threatens to oust her if she makes a compromise too far.

May's combative remarks were calibrated to appease euroskeptic Conservatives ahead of what's likely to be a bruising annual party conference at the end of the month.

May's statement followed a fraught EU summit in Salzburg, Austria, which dashed hopes of a breakthrough in stalled divorce talks with only six months to go until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29.



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