No reason to rethink UK rating's negative outlook: S&P

LONDON (Reuters) - S&P Global saw no surprises in the launch of Britain’s divorce from the EU, and nothing has happened in recent months to make the agency rethink its negative rating outlook on the country, its top sovereign analyst said on Thursday.

Workers walk to work during the morning rush hour in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London, Britain, January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

S&P cut Britain triple-A rating by two notches straight after it voted to leave the European Union last year, the first time it had made such a large cut to a top-rated country.

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Formally launching the two-year countdown to its departure on Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May said there was no turning back.

Moritz Kraemer, S&P’s chief of sovereign ratings, said her speech was largely as expected and there had been “no surprises”, though her tone was “more conciliatory than it could have been”.

“The (EU) governments know that they have to hold the (Brexit) discussions in good faith,” he told Reuters.

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Britain’s economy has proved far more resilient to uncertainty caused by the Brexit process than most economists - including those from S&P - had predicted.

That has raised questions as to whether the firm’s negative outlook, which suggests a greater chance of another rating cut, is still justified.

In Kraemer’s view it is. “We have seen nothing recently to make us rethink the negative outlook on the UK rating,” he said.

The situation has been further complicated this week as Scotland’s parliament has called for a second referendum on independence, which voters north of the border rejected in 2014.

Efforts to salvage a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland have also remained unsuccessful, further muddying a debate over whether there will have to be a return to a more distinct border with the Republic of Ireland, which remains part of the EU.

“In Northern Ireland it all comes down to the same old cleavages in society... but it is an additional complication (as the UK starts the Brexit process).”

But “the fact (Scottish National Party leader) Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to have another referendum is certainly not a surprise,” Kraemer said.

Reporting by Marc Jones; editing by John Stonestreet