Archive for the 'Article 50' Category

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Farage plays his Trump card but Johnson surely shouldn’t be tempted

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Perhaps the most bizarre event so far in this election campaign was Nigel Farage talking to Donald Trump on his LBC radio programme yesterday.

Clearly Farage has been the big loser from the emergence of Johnson as the Conservative leader and Prime Minister and we have heard very little from the the Brexit party leader over the last month or so.

How was Farage going to get back into the game and start commanding media attention again? Well we have now seen how and the question is what does Johnson do do?

The problem is that in UK terms a link with Trump himself is an asset that is declining in value by the day as the moves to impeach him ratchet up.

What is the political benefit to Johnson in entering a dialogue particularly when there is the Farage link? The last thing the prime minister wants to do is to take action that puts the attention back on Farage who has been so damaging to Conservative Party interests in the past.

Also it is hard to see how Trump adds to Johnson’s political position at the moment. Of course if the UK does leave the EU at the end of of January then the government will need to talk to the US about a trade deal but being seen to use the Farage link would not be helpful.

No doubt Farage will use his relationship with Trump at today’s Brexit Party campaign launch.

As the Mirror front page this morning highlights a Johnson relationship with Trump could be a very big negative because it rightly or wrongly triggers the “US threat to the NHS” meme that has been used before and seems to get traction.

Mike Smithson




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Johnson’s problem is that his actions since becoming PM have led to him being totally mistrusted and disbelieved

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Why getting the timetable motion through is going to be a struggle

Above is Hillary Benn on a key issue of which MPs have only been aware tonight. Inevitably given the Cumming shenanigans since September there is a total lack of trust – something that would not have happened in TMay’s day.

Every single line and measure is going to be scrutinised to ensure that the PM is not pulling a fast one. September’s prorogation move that had to be stopped by the Supreme Court to all the other apparently smart moves briefed by Cumming have just create an atmosphere of total distrust.

The fight tomorrow is on a timetable motion as Johnson tries to meet his self-imposed deadline and avoid proper scrutiny.

Mike Smithson




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So the Letwin amendment gets through by a majority of 16

Saturday, October 19th, 2019



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The money’s now going on the meaningful vote being carried tomorrow

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Betfair have a market up on their exchange tomorrow’s big vote in the Commons and the Betdata.io chart above shows the movement since 1430 this afternoon. As can be seen the betting consensus is moving to the motion getting through.

The market rules state that:

If the House of Commons vote through the government motion on a EU withdrawal agreement then Yes will be settled as a winner. In the event of a tie the market will be settled on the Speakers deciding vote”….For clarity Section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 states that the Withdrawal Agreement may be ratified only if: (A) a Minister of the Crown has laid before the House (i) a statement that agreement has been reached (ii) a copy of the negotiated withdrawal agreement and (iii) a copy of the framework for the future relationship (B) the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship have been approved by a resolution of the House of Commons on a motion moved by a Minister of the Crown. Only when these conditions have been met will it be deemed a ‘Meaningful Vote’ has taken place.”

What is not clear is what happens if the motion is amended though a note on the rules states “If this vote does not take place on 19/10/2019 this market will be voided.”

Mike Smithson




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On the betting markets punters now make it a 40% chance that the UK will leave the EU by the end of the month

Thursday, October 17th, 2019


Betfair exchange prices on betdata.io chart

As can be seen in the chart the day has seen a lot of movement in the £2.5m Betfair exchange main Brexit market on whether the UK will leave by the end of the month.

Clearly the big risk for punters here is that this doesn’t go through the Commons on Saturday and we could see the Benn Act trigger which could delay things.

Even if the vote is backing Johnson on Saturday there is an enormous amount of legislative work that needs to be done and there are are very few parliamentary days possible this month to do that.

I think the betting is currently about right.

Mike Smithson




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Welcome to the Looking-Glass

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.” 

Has Humpty (oops, sorry, the PM) gone and done it? Has he actually got Britain a deal to Brexit before 31 October? Well, it appears he has. Hooray! Let the church bells ring out. Boris is a genius. All those nay-sayers who said he couldn’t do it should hang their heads in shame. Of course, some of us predicted just this – here, for instance. The EU are playing their allotted part to perfection with Barnier saying that the backstop has gone.  Mind you, the bridge to NI has yet to be promised. Perhaps that will be the rabbit miraculously produced out of Boris’s hat just in time for Saturday’s debate – Ta Dah! – to get those sulky children in the DUP on board.

There are two debates going on in Britain over Brexit: one is about the facts, what the proposed deal  actually says and means. No-one cares about such dreary pedantic matters in a post-truth world. (Or maybe only wordy lawyers.) The other – and far more important – politically anyway – debate is about the appearance of things.

How does this make Boris, the Tories, the Tory rebels, the Brexit Party, Labour and the rest of the opposition look – and in that order?

  • Well, it makes him look very good indeed. The Leaver who could do what Mrs May could not and in just a few weeks. Even the EU are complimenting him.
  • It positions the Tories well for any GE – “we are doing what we promised and on time“.
  • The Tory rebels now need to decide whether they really want to stop a No Deal exit even at the cost of making Boris look like a winner.
  • The Brexit party – its leader now wanting an extension – looks churlishly idiotic.
  • Labour face the prospect of opposing what they claim to want and a GE they could well lose and lose badly.
  • And as for the poor Lib Dems: they have had their Revoke Article 50 policy nullified overnight.

There is the small matter of whether Parliament will actually vote for this new deal but this is a mere detail. If it doesn’t, Boris has another villain to tilt against. His A-G can repeat his You’re all an absolute shower act, though perhaps a little less stridently this time, eh Geoffrey? Magnanimity in victory and all that.

But let’s just for one brief moment be a little dreary and pedantic. What does this new deal mean?

When is a backstop not a backstop?  The backstop has gone. Yes – for the the UK. But not for NI. NI will formally remain within the UK Customs area but in practice will follow EU rules on customs and VAT and the Single Market. The backstop is no longer something which comes into play if an FTA is not agreed. It is now policy for NI from Day One – and likely to be permanent because of the consent provisions.

Taking Back Control?  It is the EU which will determine what customs checks there need to be in relation to goods being moved between the EU, NI and the rest of the UK.

NI as an integral part of the UK.  Not anymore. There will now be an effective border down the Irish Sea between NI and the rest of the UK in relation to trade, in consequence of the agreements reached about how customs and VAT rules will apply. It’s not annexation. No, no. Just the sort of tight hug you can’t easily extract yourself from.

No jurisdiction for the ECJ.  Not quite. It will be the ECJ which will have jurisdiction over this NI Protocol and Britain will have access to the court in exactly the same way as any other EU member state. And then there is the role the ECJ will play in relation to any future EU-Britain FTA.

Consent.  The agreement is quite clever in relation to this. A majority of NI’s representatives have to consent if any change is to be made to this arrangement.  Nota bene – not a majority of each community but a bare majority. This removes the DUP’s veto. Given that the other parties (critically, Sinn Fein) are Remain parties it is vanishingly unlikely that there will ever be consent for this arrangement to cease. NI will be in a privileged position where it gets the benefits of both the EU and the UK. Not an unfair outcome given that the province voted to Remain – and certainly a more democratic one than in the May deal. But given that the DUP’s strength has come from its ability to say “No” this considerably weakens its USP, as its statement today has recognised.

Scotland.  It will be furious. It too voted Remain but the absence of that crucial land border with the EU has not given it or whichever EU state it could have bordered the necessary leverage. Perhaps the Scots Guards could quickly invade Mont St Michel.

The Political Declaration.  Clause 77  is the crucial one: a level playing field in the areas of tax competition, state aid, environmental, social and employment standards. It is not legally binding so a future government (and the EU) could ignore this but then it would be much less likely to get an acceptable FTA – one acceptable to both Britain and the EU. Betting against the EU in future trade negotiations does not, based on the experience of the last 3 years, seem wise.

The rest of the UK.  Well, it does not get the backstop but it also loses its access to the Single Market without having to pay for it and without having to comply with one of its key pillars: Freedom of Movement. The one big advantage of Mrs May’s deal was that it provided an incentive to the EU to agree an FTA with Britain on reasonable terms in order to avoid triggering the backstop. That incentive is no longer there. The EU will undoubtedly want an FTA, as will Britain.  But the EU’s relative advantage has been improved vis-à-vis Britain. The price that Britain will pay in future in order to say “no backstop” now will be higher than it might otherwise have been. In making such a fuss about the backstop (and the date) Britain signalled to the EU exactly where its weak spots were. And the EU has used them. It has appeared to concede on the backstop (by shifting it while allowing the PM to say it has gone) while in reality getting everything that mattered to it from the previous deal – and then some.

Pah: reality! Who cares? The race is on to see if this deal can be nailed down before people have a chance to understand its implications in detail, before enough MPs ask why a deal which, on one reading is worse than Mrs May’s deal containing provisions the PM has previously described as unacceptable, should be agreed. Boris must hope that speed and urgency will help him come to a resolution. (Insert your own joke here about his personal life.)

The genius of Boris is to turn a genuine question about Britain’s relationship with the EU and the terms on which it departs solely into a question about what is good for him and the party he leads. By that standard, this deal is a triumph. Whether it will be any good for the people who voted Leave in the hope that Brexit would, in the end, make life for better for them and their families and for those hoping for an intelligent thoughtful approach to Britain’s future relationship with the EU, who can say.

Roll on Saturday. I’m still hoping for that Garden Bridge across the Irish Sea.

CycleFree




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“Honouring” the referendum should apply to not just to the outcome but what the official Leave campaign said

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Things are different now the country’s being led by Cummings/Johnson

Lots of talk at moment about “honouring the Referendum”. Fair enough.

Those who espouse that seem to look to the result itself rather than the promises and assertions made my the official Leave campaign in the run up to the June 23rd 2016 vote.

It was harder to make this argument when TMay was PM for she had not been responsible for what Vote Leave said.

Since Johnson became PM and recruited Cummings as his lead aide then there should be less excuse for not following the statements that the campaign was making. They should be accountable not just for their actions now but for all that Vote Leave said during the campaign. This is what they were responsible for and what helped voters to make up their minds.

So any deal needs to be judged against their assertions at the time.

Mike Smithson




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With 16 days to go punters make it just a 22% chance that UK will leave the EU by the end of the month

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019


Chart of movements on the Betfair exchange from betdata.io

The big news for those betting on whether there will be an exit from the EU this month within the Article 50 deadline is that the market rates the chances of a deal this week as being less likely.

What we should read into that is hard to say. The EU has a long history of things going right to the wire and there must be just a possibility that something can be agreed. This has been going on for so long that many leaders just want it over.

Clearly Johnson has made concessions and that creates its own risks. You can see Nigel Farage attacking whatever comes out as being BINO – Brexit in Name Only.

The Independent is reporting that no agreement is possible before this week’s summit. Its report notes:

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell, who is set to take over as the EU’s foreign affairs chief, meanwhile told reporters outside a meeting in Luxembourg that there might be a need to “stop the watch” and ask for more time.

“You know, in Europe, we always take decisions on the edge of the precipice, on the edge of the cliff,” he said. “Even when the last minute comes, then we stop the watch and say that we need technically more time to fulfil all the requirements, all the last minute requirements.

From the PM’s perspective he has to ensure that his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU on October 31 doesn’t damage him or his party if it proves not to be possible. Whether or not he was being foolhardy in using that rhetoric it certainly added to the sense of urgency which might give a benefit.

Domestically the real danger to the Brexiteers is the growing clamour for a confirmatory referendum which we’ve discussed in previous threads.

Mike Smithson