Fitch warns of British debt downgrade on ‘hard’ Brexit risk

AFP – Ratings agency Fitch warned on Wednesday that it could cut Britain’s debt rating, citing the economic hit from a potential no-deal Brexit. 

The country’s departure from the European Union without a divorce agreement would create a risk of "substantial disruption to UK economic and trade prospects, at least in the near term," Fitch said.

Fitch put Britain’s long-term debt on credit watch "negative" for a possible downgrade from the current "AA" rating.

The review date had been set for April 26, but Fitch said "developments in the country warrant such a deviation from the calendar." 

The action came as Prime Minister Theresa May met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, a round that yielded no major breakthrough.

With less than six weeks until Brexit day, fears are rising that Britain could crash out of the EU without a deal, creating economic havoc.

Fitch said it still expects Britain will avoid a "no-deal" Brexit and economic growth will pick up, but warned the consequences could be serious if no agreement is reached. 

"The impact of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit on growth is highly uncertain, but a recession on the scale of that seen in the UK in the early 1990s (when real GDP declined by 2% over six quarters) would be a reasonable comparison for gauging the potential macroeconomic stress," Fitch said.

"At the same time, a fiscal and monetary policy response would follow a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, mitigating the negative impact on the macroeconomic outlook."