'Immediate no-deal threat off table, but it continues to exist' - UK chancellor
UK Chancellor Philip Hammond has said that while the "immediate threat" of a no-deal Brexit has been taken off the table, it has not been fully removed.
Mr Hammond also said it was very likely that the idea of a second Brexit referendum would be put to parliament at some point, but time was tight before October when Britain is due to leave the EU.
The chancellor spoke as he attended meetings at the International Monetary Fund in Washington. He told reporters: "No deal as an immediate threat is off the table. Clearly we could have been in a very different place today. But it hasn't been removed altogether. It continues to exist. We are managing down the risks of no deal.
"Nobody should be under any illusion that if we were ever to get to no deal, it would be a very uncomfortable place, both for the UK, for its impact on the European Union and hence the global economy."
Mr Hammond also sounded a positive note over the talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
"I think we are in with a good chance of being able to reach an agreement on the way forward in the next few weeks. We are in discussion with the Labour Party," he said.
"We agree on quite a lot. The Labour Party is clear that we have to deliver Brexit. It is clear that we have to end free movement. We have some disagreements on priorities and approach beyond that, but we agree on fundamentals.
"I remain optimistic that over the next couple of months we will get a deal done.
"It's no secret that the Labour Party regard a customs union as a negotiating objective for them. Putting it on the table is not the same as having it agreed. We haven't set red lines. Everything is up for discussion."
Mr Hammond also said that the focus of the British government is to get a Brexit deal agreed in parliament. He said that the possibility of a second Brexit referendum was unlikely given the timeframe.
He added: "You might argue that having an extension to the end of October creates that possibility.
"But if, in a couple of months' time, we are taking a bill through parliament, then probably you are going to be struggling. Even if you wanted to organise a referendum, you would probably be struggling to do it in the time available.
"I don't think the decision the (European) Council made on Wednesday night makes it any more or less likely that that will happen. That in the end is an issue about parliament and parliamentary numbers, and where the Labour Party ends up on this, as the Labour Party itself is deeply divided on this issue and at some point it will have to decide on where it stands.
"Our challenge now and our focus is to get a deal that we can get through parliament agreed as quickly as possible... shut down the uncertainty so we can unleash the very large stock of potential investment that is hanging over the UK economy in suspended animation while people wait to see how this pans out."
Meanwhile, the sister of Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has been announced as a candidate for Nigel Farage's Brexit Party in the European elections.
Mr Farage launched his new party in Coventry yesterday.
Annunziata Rees-Mogg was introduced on stage to speak as a supporter of the new Brexit Party.
She said: "I'm here today in sadness.
"Our democracy has been so betrayed that I have felt the need to be here."
She added: "I joined the Conservative Party in 1984 and this is not a decision I have made lightly - to leave a party for which I have fought at every election since 1987, from Maggie Thatcher through to Theresa May."