Archive for the 'Article 50' Category


With 60 days to go the uncertainty is greater than ever

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Ahead of the crunch parliamentary week punters don’t think the March 29 exit will happen

One of the good things about betting trend charts is that they are a way of seeing how opinions, at least of those who ready to risk money betting on politics, are developing over time.

We are today exactly 60 days before the Article 50 deadline expires when the UK is due to leave the EU. Yet it is still far from clear whether that is going to happen on that date, whether it will be deferred and what the terms will be. Will, for instance, the UK still be in the customs union?

    Thus on October 11th last year punters rated it a 71% chance that the country would be out on March 29th. That’s now moved to, as I write, a 21.3% chance which is a huge change.

The time is running out. Even if MPs now accept Mrs. May’s deal then there is almost certainly not the parliamentary time available to amend the relevant legislation for the new post EU relationship.

The PM’s strategy throughout has been to let the time pass by so it becomes much harder for MPs to allow Brexit to happen without a deal. Whether that will be affected by this week’s Commons votes is hard to say.

A massive vote tomorrow will be on the Yvette Cooper amendment which seeks to delay the exit date. The Times is reporting:

“MPs who are loyal at present to the prime minister will get behind alternative plans for leaving the European Union if a proposal by the former Labour cabinet minister Yvette Cooper results in a delay to the withdrawal date.

One MP who voted for the deal two weeks ago said that they could not afford to wait for Mrs May to try to secure more concessions on the Irish backstop before mobilising behind a softer Brexit. “How long do we have to wait? People on the moderate and centre wing of the party are not going to wait until mid-March,” they said. “We’re just not.”

Another market on the Betfair exchange has it as just a 15% chance that we’ll have a no-deal Brexit by March 30th.

Mike Smithson


Coming to a Brexit near you: Rejoin

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

Britain leaving the EU will close a chapter, not the book

Whether the UK leaves the EU is still just about a question of ‘if’ as well as (or instead of) ‘when’, although of course ‘if’, being open-ended, isn’t of itself very meaningful. Suffice to say that the not-very-liquid Betfair market on Brexit date has ‘not before 2022’ at 4.2 – or, in percentage terms, a 24% chance. This is now slightly shorter than the 4.4 best price on 2019Q1: odds only justified by the chance of a No Deal Brexit occurring without an Article 50 extension.

The reality – as Andrea Leadsom implicitly acknowledged, despite her other assertions to the contrary – is that there simply isn’t time now before March 29 for parliament to sign off a deal and to pass the necessary legislation to implement it, even before we get to parliamentary motions demanding that the government seek an extension. There is only one deal on the table and parliament doesn’t like it. The chances of a vote on any Withdrawal Agreement before late February are surely slim.

The value in the market to my mind is with 2019Q2, with a best price of 3.35 (or about 30%). That period almost exactly defines the gap between the current A50 deadline and the new European Parliament taking their seats. Three months should also be long enough to pass the legislation to implement a deal, assuming one has been agreed before March 29.

By contrast, there are three realistic paths to Remain. The first is via a referendum which parliament might force on the government as the price of agreeing to ratify the (or a) Withdrawal Agreement. Current polling suggests that Remain might well win a new vote – though it’d need a better campaign than last time and better campaigners, whoever they might be. The second is if the Tory government falls, Labour takes over and U-turns on its previous pledge to honour the referendum. This is unlikely on both counts but not out of the question. And the third is that the can gets kicked repeatedly so far down the road that the government feels able to call it off in the hope that the majority of the public has become bored. These are not mutually exclusive alternatives.

    However, as well as Remain, there’s one campaign which has not yet raised its voice, presumably because it feels that it’s still very much a second-best option: namely Rejoin.

The prospect of a new round of Britain’s interminable EU story is not something that many voters will rejoice at but public fatigue never stopped a European zealot, of either a Eurosceptic or Europhile bent. Once out, the battle will begin immediately to get back in.

This isn’t the place to explore the probability of that campaign’s success but it is worth looking at how it will impact the main parties.

For the Tories, Rejoin would unite the great majority of MPs, members and activists in opposition. Even those (like me) who would be temperamentally inclined to agree with it are likely to feel it’s started way too soon. Give it a rest. (Advocates would no doubt say that it would have to begin as soon as possible so as to enable re-entry while alignment remains close and hence easy.) Not that this will unite the Tories on European policy: there’d still be plenty of arguments about the post-transition arrangements but that’s a different thing. And if they can make it through to 2022 and past the end of the transition period, there’ll still be arguments as to how far to diverge from the EU in practice.

For the Lib Dems and SNP, Rejoin comes naturally and could easily form a major plank of their next manifesto, not least because it helps to differentiate themselves in a positive way from Labour on the left-of-centre, where most Remainers are.

Labour, by contrast, will have a big question to answer for its election manifesto as to whether to commit to apply to new membership, and if so, on what terms. Most of the membership, voters and MPs will want it in; the leadership – if still Corbyn – not so much.

Right now, 2022 seems a long way away. Heck, April seems a long way away. But assuming that Brexit does occur, whether managed or chaotic, the vocal and committed current Remainers will not simply pack up, accept their defeat and move on. Britain will remain deeply conflicted on many levels about its relationship with Europe (arguably, this should read ‘England and Wales will remain deeply conflicted’, although that’s mainly because Scotland and N Ireland have even bigger issues to settle, and Europe is seen there through those lenses). Until those conflicts are resolved, the In-Out debate of the last seventy years will not end.

David Herdson


Chancellor Hammond is right: extending the Article 50 deadline won’t produce a Brexit compromise

Friday, January 25th, 2019

And why for some No deal is so appealing

Mike Smithson


Desperate times. A new way out of the Brexit impasse

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

The train is hurtling down the track and the cliff edge of 11pm on 29 March 2019 approaches. The overwhelming majority of the House of Commons is unwilling to countenance no deal, but there is nothing approaching a majority on what they would in practice countenance. Different groups compete for power, some reaching for the brake and some arguing that we should speed up to get to 88mph to zap us back to 1955. No resolution is in sight and a terrible fate beckons.

What are the options? Britain can leave with no deal. It can sign up for a deal that has just been rejected by a majority of 230 MPs. It can try to negotiate something new, though the EU has consistently and repeatedly said that it won’t renegotiate. It can decide to remain in the EU. It can ask for extra time, which it might not get. Or it can revoke its notice to quit and do some further thinking that way. None of these options look anywhere near commanding a consensus.

Is there anything else?  There’s always something else. All you need is a little imagination. The problem essentially comes from the fixing of the deadline. Let’s work on that then.

The measurement of time has been under state control since the beginning of time, right up to the present day. Following the example of Julius Caesar and Augustus, the former president of Turkmenistan renamed the months, including one for himself and one for his mother. But I deplore his lack of ambition and think we should be raising our sights, just as the early Romans did. For what we are in urgent need of is an extra month.

There are 365 days in the year. We can reallocate these into thirteen 28 day months. (This leaves a day over and the challenge of leap years, but I’ll come back to that aspect.) The past convention of naming months after the political leader would not work, since we already have a May.  Perhaps the naming right could be auctioned in order to reduce the national debt. Amazon, for example, sounds suitably classical.

This has numerous advantages. For starters, calendars would never need to change. They can go from being throwaway items to luxury objects. Next up, if we make 1 January a Monday, paraskevidekatriaphobia will be a thing of the past. Every monthly paid worker would get a one-off 8.33% pay rise, helping to alleviate the long squeeze on wages growth at a stroke.

This leaves the question of the 365th day and leap days. This can be dealt with by adding intercalenary days, attached to no month and not being a day of the week. Britain doesn’t have enough Bank Holidays, so Meeks Days (like school inset days, I expect they will be known by the name of their creator) will serve yet another valuable function. Stick them – one, or two in a leap year – between June and July and we can hope for good weather and a day off for the Wimbledon final too.

What would this mean for Brexit? The timid might hope to buy another 28 days by inserting a new month between February and March, and hope that might be enough to sort things out. The observant will note that with each month having 28 days, the 29th of March becomes the twelfth of never. Brexit would not have been revoked or delayed. It would simply have been teleported safely into an alternate universe.

Now it might be argued, perhaps by those who have advocated that Britain should go into union with Australia Canada and New Zealand or by those who have advocated that the vote should be removed from the over 75s, that this idea is far too eccentric to be worthy of further attention. The time has come, however, to think laterally. What the country needs is more time. Parliament with its newly-rediscovered sovereignty should legislate to provide us with exactly that.

Alastair Meeks


Punters now think it is even less likely that the UK will leave the EU on March 29th

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

To my mind the most significant thing to come out of the catastrophic defeat for the government on its Brexit deal was the statement by Theresa May that she’ll look to consulting with other parties.

I just wonder if that is paving the way for a second referendum. Clearly the other main parties, LAB after its likely confidence vote failure tomorrow, the SNP, the LDS, PC and the Green are all committed to a second vote.

    It would be politically easier if the the decision to go to the country again was a joint one. The move would also a less difficult time getting through the Commons.

One thing that TMay has been saying repeatedly which is surely right – rejecting the deal makes Brexit happening at all less likely.

It is hard to conclude otherwise that the ERG’s strategy has not been very smart.

Mike Smithson


On the spread betting markets the number of Brexit deal “ayes” for TMay’s deal slips five during the afternoon

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

For me the most satisfying, if risky, form of political gambling is on the spread betting markets where the more you are right with your prediction the more you win – with, alas, of the converse being the case.

So on SportingIndex this afternoon there has been a lively market on who many MPs are going to vote “Aye” in the voting that starts in less than an hour.

At 3pm you could have “sold” the number at 222 MPs – that’s now slipped to 217.

If you bet at that level and the outcome was, say, 210 MPs then you would win the difference between the actual outcome and your bet – in this case SEVEN, times your stake level. The worse it is for Mrs May the more money you would make.

If you think that it is not going to be as bad for the PM then you “buy”.

Because of the open-ended nature of the outcome spread betting is only for those comfortable with taking big risks.

Mike Smithson


On this day lets not forget the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the troubled province

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019


Let’s not forget either the DUP’s popularity within the province

One of the issues with the politics Northern Ireland is that the Republican party, Sinn Fein, refuses to take up its seven seats at Westminster. This means that of the 18 constituencies in the Province seven do not have active MPs. It also means that the only Westminster representation comes from a party that got just 36% of the vote there in June 2017.

This makes the parliamentary representation of opinion in the province rather distorted but there’s nothing that can be done about it because the Sinn Fein stance is central to its core politics.

Throughout the early part of my career the one massive story that dominated British politics was h troubles in Northern Ireland which lead to many deaths and much destruction. The ending of nearly a third of a century of difficulties as a result of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a major success that both Tony Blair and John Major can claim credit for.

The DUP, it should be noted, was opposed to the agreement and as can be seen the no side got 28.8% of the vote.

A huge problem is that this was all a long time ago and many current politicians have no real knowledge understanding of its significance.

Mike Smithson


If the Article 50 exit date gets deferred it could raise doubts about whether the UK ever leaves

Friday, January 11th, 2019

A deferral on March 29th could lead to similar calls once the extension ends

Lots of talk today about the possibility of the March 29th Brexit deadline being deferred because the UK Parliament does not have the time left to enact the required legislation.

Apparently six bills would have to complete the parliamentary process before the article 50 deadline of March 29 when the country is due automatically under the legislation that allowed the Article 50 notice to be given.

A deferral has a number of implications the first of which is that the country might have to participate in the forthcoming European Parliament elections which take place in May. Clearly if the UK is still in the EU then its representatives will have to be elected in the May elections.

One of the issues here is that the remaining 27 countries have already carved up the UK seats that should become available once the country leaves and candidates have been selected.

A more important element is that once you have delayed the process for a first time then you can see the same issue raising its heads against again once the extension period is over.

Maybe you could even have a situation whereby the UK is permanently in the EU and permanently trying but failing to set up the institutions and other issues that will be required for an actual exit to happen in order to meet the terms of the referendum outcome.

The betting on the Betfair exchange has moved even further towards the UK not leaving on March 29th. It is now a 75% chance that it doesn’t.

Meanwhile a hedge fund manager is betting big that the UK won’t leave.

Mike Smithson