The British pound bounced around Tuesday, briefly pushing to pushing to levels not seen since mid-November, hours ahead of a crucial vote on an exit plan for the U.K. to leave the European Union.

Giving up most of an earlier lead, sterling

GBPUSD, -0.0466%

last bought $1.2874, slightly higher than $1.2866 late Monday, but has tapped a session high so far of $1.2917, putting it at levels not seen since mid November. The pound saw similar highs in Monday’s session, but retraced those gains as Tory whip Gareth Johnson resigned as U.S. trading hours began.

The pound remained firm against the euro

EURGBP, -0.2356%

with the shared currency buying £0.8901, down 0.2% on the session, according to FactSet data.

Most observers believe U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will see her Brexit deal defeated in Parliament Tuesday evening, with a vote expected to take place around 10:30 p.m. U.K. time. Sterling’s direction, according to many strategists, will hinge on just how much the voting goes against her.

Brexit Brief: The key dates and times in the week ahead

“Brussels have stood firm, refusing to offer anything other than warm words to Theresa May as she heads to the Parliamentary show down. With no further reassurances over the Irish backstop there has not been the change in tide that Theresa May needed,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group, who expects a “knee jerk sell off in the pound until the next steps or Plan B are given.”

The so-called backstop governs the treatment of the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and EU member state Ireland following Brexit. Hard-line Brexiteers worry it will keep a back door open to the EU. May, who has been adamant that the backstop is just a short-term solution to deal with the border issue, has gained public support for her stance from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, though still without providing a set timeline.

As for a Plan B, Lawler said that it will probably mean renegotiations and extension of Article 50, or an extension to its March 29 date for leaving the EU. That date is based on the two-year breakup period that started when May gave official notice the U.K. would leave the union.

Tuesday’s vote was initially scheduled for December but was delayed as May expected to be defeated. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile said last week that the handling of Brexit demanded fresh elections.

Don’t miss: Here’s why traders are bracing for a volatile British pound ahead of vote on May’s Brexit plan

Read: City’s 10 biggest banks spend 1 billion on Brexit plans

Elsewhere, the ICE U.S. Dollar Index was flat at 95.691, while the dollar

USDJPY, +0.40%

 was moving higher against the Japanese yen at ¥108.54 from ¥108.15 late Monday.

— Anneken Tappe contributed to this article

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2019-01-15