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Saturday November 28th, 2020 5:25AM

The Latest: Ratings agency warns of potential UK downgrades

By The Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union (all times local):

4:25 p.m.

Standard & Poor's has warned it could downgrade its credit ratings for Britain and an array of companies if the country crashes out of the European Union next month without a deal.

The agency said in a report that a so-called 'no deal' Brexit could "result in negative revisions of our outlooks on ratings" if the disruption to the economy were "immediate and material."

Though it thinks the risk of a 'no deal' Britain remains high, the agency does not think it's the most likely scenario "as the political incentive for the U.K. and the EU to negotiate an orderly outcome (even after a potential delay) remains very strong."

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but it's unclear how it will do so after U.K. lawmakers last month rejected the Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the EU. May is heading to Brussels for talks with top officials Thursday in hopes of re-opening the deal.

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2:55 p.m.

The European Parliament's top Brexit lawmaker says the EU assembly stands by the divorce agreement sealed with Britain and that there can be no renegotiation of a provision guaranteeing that the Irish border remains open.

Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the assembly's Brexit Steering Group, said "the withdrawal agreement is fair and cannot be replaced."

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due in Brussels on Thursday to seek concessions to the Brexit deal.

Verhofstadt says "it is the U.K.'s obligation to now propose a positive and viable proposal on the way forward."

Referring to the backstop — a safeguard to keep trade moving freely between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — Verhofstadt said "political uncertainty in the U.K. has reinforced to us why this insurance policy is required."

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but there is no idea how it will leave after U.K. lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against the deal, with many doing so because of their opposition to the backstop.

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11:55 a.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk has blasted British politicians who lobbied for the U.K. to leave the European Union without first working out how to do it.

Tusk said: "I have been wondering what a special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of plan how to carry it safely."

Tusk gave no indication that the other 27 EU countries will be up for reopening the Brexit withdrawal agreement that British Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated but which was overwhelmingly rejected by U.K. lawmakers.

Speaking alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Tusk said "the EU 27 is not making any new offer" to the British government to help pass their Brexit divorce deal in the U.K. parliament.

They both underlined that preparations are being intensified for a potentially disastrous no-deal scenario under which Britain would leave the EU on March 29 without an agreement.

___

9:30 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to meet with Northern Ireland's main political parties as she seeks to break the impasse over her European Union divorce deal.

May is signaling she will seek changes to the deal rather than outright removal of the so-called backstop, designed to preserve the open border between Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland. The border area was a flashpoint during decades of conflict, and the free flow of people and goods across the frontier underpins the region's peace process.

May, during a speech Tuesday in Belfast, restated her "unshakeable" commitment to avoiding a hard border and said she didn't plan to remove the "insurance policy" entirely.

"What Parliament has said is that they believe there should be changes made to the backstop," she said.

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