LONDON (Reuters) - The chance that Britain leaves the European Union without agreeing a divorce deal has not increased recently and talks have not hit an impasse, British finance minister Philip Hammond said on Monday.
Hammond, who last week apologised for calling the EU “the enemy”, described relations with European countries as constructive.
However, he said the EU’s strict adherence to a phased negotiating process - which first tackles budget issues and the rights of EU citizens living in Britain - was delaying progress on more substantive trade issues.
Last week the EU’s chief negotiator said talks were deadlocked, notably over London’s refusal to detail what it was offering to pay Brussels to settle outstanding liabilities after its June 2016 vote to leave the bloc.
This followed an attempt by May last month to revive the negotiations with a speech in Florence promising Britain would honour its EU commitments.
Asked in an interview with U.S. broadcaster CNBC whether the risk of “no deal” had risen, Hammond said: “Personally I don’t think so.”
“It is so blindingly obviously in the best interests of both the UK and the European Union 27 that we do reach a deal so we can continue trading together.”
Prime Minister Theresa May is due to meet European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker over dinner later on Monday to try to refocus the talks on future trade ties.
Earlier on Monday JPMorgan said the chance of a “no deal” Brexit had risen to 25 percent from 15 percent previously, in line with the consensus of a Reuters poll of economists published last month.
Hammond was speaking in the United States during a visit to attend an International Monetary Fund meeting and see finance industry representatives.
He predicted London would keep its status as a global financial centre and said most international banks were planning to keep the vast majority of their London-based staff.
“EU business is only a fraction of London’s total business, and we’re very confident that the UK, London, will remain a global financial centre,” he said.
Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken and Toby Chopra