September 16, 2019 / 3:13 PM / 3 months ago

Wide UK-EU rift over Brexit terms kicks pound lower

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

* Graphic: Trade-weighted sterling since Brexit vote tmsnrt.rs/2hwV9Hv

By Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The pound retreated further from last week’s gains following a heated remarks by Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel on Monday showing that the gap between the British and European Union positions on Brexit remained far apart.

Bettel lashed out right after talks with Boris Johnson, saying his British counterpart had failed to propose serious alternatives to unlock a Brexit deal before the Oct. 31 divorce date and seeking to blame the bloc for the “nightmare”.

Bettel was standing alone at a podium that had been prepared for comments by both leaders, but Johnson left immediately after the meeting amid a loud anti-Brexit protest just outside Bettel’s office.

The pound had fallen to a three-year low below $1.20 earlier this month, then soared by over 4% for a few days after lawmakers voted to stop Johnson taking Britain out of the EU at next month’s deadline even if a transition deal is not clinched.

Johnson and his ministers been talking up progress in negotiations with Brussels, but the EU side has sounded less optimistic, putting the onus on Britain to come up with new, concrete ideas.

But Monday’s comments provided further indication from the EU side that no solution was in sight despite meetings between Johnson and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and later Bettel.

“The fact remains there is still a decent chance of Britain not (being) able to secure a deal, and that is prompting investors to take profits after last week’s rally,” said Thu Lan Nguyen, a currency strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Also weighing on sentiment was a broader risk aversion sweeping across global markets after attacks on crude oil facilities in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

On Monday, the pound fell 0.8% to 1.2408 after briefly popping above $1.25 in early Asian trading, its highest in nearly two months. It rose 1.7% last week. It also weakened by 0.2% against the euro to 88.68 pence.

Futures data shows investors have resumed shorting the pound after a brief pause.

Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee Editing by Mark Heinrich

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