London stocks were set to edge lower on Thursday as investors mulled over the events of the previous night and looked ahead to a Commons vote on whether to delay the Brexit process by extending Article 50.
The FTSE 100 was called to open five points lower at 7,154. Meanwhile, sterling was down 0.6% against the dollar at 1.3265, having surged to a nine-month high on Wednesday after MPs voted to reject a no-deal Brexit, once by 312 votes to 308 on a cross party amendment, and then again on the government's own motion by 321 votes to 278.
CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said that while Wednesday's votes are significant, it should be remembered that legally they change as under the rule of law the UK will still leave the EU on 29h March.
“What it does mean is that we now move onto the next chapter where MPs will now get a vote on whether the UK should seek an extension to the article 50 process, which is likely to be decided at next week's European Council meetings.
“This is where the UK loses control of the narrative as the EU would be well within its rights to block any request to extend, irrespective of what MPs want, unless the UK could show that there were significant grounds to grant the extension, and with MPs unanimous in what they don't like, we still have no clearer idea of what they do want. There is also the small matter of European elections in May so any extension if granted could throw up new problems.”
Hewson said the votes on Wednesday have breathed new life into the prospect of another meaningful vote on Theresa May's already twice rejected withdrawal agreement.
In corporate news, OneSavings Bank and Charter Court Financial Services have reached agreement on the terms of a recommended all-share merger, under the same terms as suggested at the start of the week.
The deal will be effected by means of a scheme of arrangement with each Charter Court shareholder receiving 0.8253 new OSB shares.
Sports Direct has offered Debenhams a new alternative to the Â£150m loan that the troubled department store group is seeking.
Sports Direct said it would offer Debenhams a Â£150m unsecured 12-month term loan, in return for a further 5% of its shares or interest of 3% on the loan.
Elsewhere, Wood Group has secured a contract from Siemens to install a new Siemens HL-class gas turbine at a power generating station in North Carolina.
The company said the award would see it mobilise a team of around 400 people to the project site to deliver the project, for a period of approximately 11 months. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.