The EU's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said on Monday it was "realistic" to expect an agreement on a divorce settlement with London in the next eight weeks, with an optimistic note when the clock marks Britain's exit from the bloc. .
The pound rose against the dollar because of Barnier's comments, which come after weeks of growing anxiety that an agreement to prevent Britain from crashing into a Brexit "without treatment" is not reached in time.
According to reports, British police chiefs even prepared contingency plans to deal with civil unrest if Britain leaves the EU without any agreement being reached, as fears of shortages of food and property could lead to to disorder.
"I think that if we are realistic, we can reach an agreement on the first stage of this negotiation, which is the Brexit treaty, in six or eight weeks," Barnier said at a conference in Bled, Slovenia.
Barnier's comments may bring some relief to British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is being regularly attacked from her own deeply divided party, and former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson launched a new barrage against him on Monday.
Johnson resigned from the government in July because of the May plan for Britain to maintain close trade links with the EU after Brexit and rumors abound that it is planning to try to overthrow the prime minister.
Last week, Barnier told British parliamentarians that an agreement on the terms of the British block's divorce was 80% agreed.
But he warned them that he risked being frustrated by the failure to reach an agreement on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, ruled by Great Britain.
Britain will leave the bloc on March 29 and the two sides have said they want to reach a divorce agreement at an EU summit from October 18 to 19 to give their parliaments enough time to back a deal.
But diplomats and officials in Brussels privately acknowledge that this deadline is likely to be missed, and an emergency summit in November is at stake.
Apart from the enigma of the Irish border, the two sides are stuck on the future commercial relationship between Great Britain and the remaining 27 EU states.
But officials in Brussels say a concrete divorce agreement could be finalized in the first half of November and that future ties could be the subject of a political declaration that would take place during a post-Brexit transition period.