Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


On the betting markets punters don’t buy the speculation that there’ll be a 2018 election

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

A vote this year is rated as just an 11% chance

At the weekend we saw reports in the media about the possibility of the huge divide in the Conservative over Brexit being of such a magnitude that an early, 2018, general election was the only way of ending it.

I thought the Sunday Times report was over-egged simply because Mrs. May was so scarred by her failure to retain the Tory majority last year that there were no circumstances in which she would take such a gamble again. The idea of her going into another campaign for which, as we saw, she was so psychologically unsuited to handle is hard to comprehend.

It is also hard to see another party leader being put in place this year for it is convenient for both sides within the party to leave her in the role until Brexit at the earliest. In any case the party’s processes make it difficult to oust her.

    Sure it only takes 48 CON MPs to write letters demanding a confidence vote of he parliamentary party for one to be triggered. But the other key number is that for her to lose that ballot requires 150+ CON MPs to vote against her and there isn’t that level of support.

On top of that there appears even within the parliamentary party to be a lack of appreciation of the Fixed Term Parliament Act and what is required to trigger an election.

The other factor that helps Mrs. May is that the Tories have established what is looking like a solid lead in the polls which diminishes the threat of Prime Minister Corbyn.

The Betfair exchange did see the odds on a 2018 election move to 15% but there was little to support it staying at the level and the price has slipped back.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn’s approach to Brexit risks alienating the enthusiastic young backers of a year ago

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

But there are no signs that he cares

The above article is one of a number that have been appearing recently from people who backed Corbyn’s LAB at GE2017 about his approach to Brexit. In many ways why should they be surprised because the manifesto on which the party fought the election was explicit. Labour was for Brexit.

    One of the paradoxes of the surprise failure of TMay to retain the CON majority and the Labour recovery was that the party’s position on leaving the EU was totally at odds with a large proportion of those who voted for it – particularly the young.

We see in the consistency of responses of GE2017 LAB voters to the regular YouGov tracker that about 70% of them think that voting to leave the EU was wrong yet team Corbyn/Milne/McDonnell are pursuing a very different course.

The question is whether the red team can continue with their approach while retaining the voters of 2017. This from Rosie McKenna should be concerning the party.

“I’m a working class kid from a council estate, so Jeremy Corbyn’s promises and policies really spoke to me; the importance of a welfare state taking care of the most disadvantaged in society, funding for our national health service, and ensuring that education is free and accessible to all. They still do.

And yet. Young people like me have never been more disappointed in, and let down by the Labour party than we have post-Brexit. My generation voted overwhelmingly and enthusiastically to Remain – by margins of 4 to 1. We don’t just see the EU as a necessary evil, but a fundamental good. A champion for peace, prosperity and freedom of movement in a continent too often scarred by war and inequality.

Because let me be clear: there is nothing socialist about Brexit. The Labour party – my Labour party – shouldn’t be championing a right-wing Tory Brexit..”

Is pressure going to make a difference? I doubt it. Corbyn has had a fixed view for decades and on this we have learned is that he doesn’t change his mind.

The questions are whether, when and where this is going to have an impact electorally. The failure of the party to gain a council in London on May 4th has been put down to the antisemitism issue which might be masking supporters concerns about Brexit policy.

Lewisham could be interesting.

Mike Smithson


A good test of how MPs view Brexit in this vote tomorrow

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

A hard one for the Government to defend


Teams from Remain areas once again dominated the Premiership and it will be even more the case next season

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Yet again sides from Leave areas get relegated

The 2017/2018 English Premier League season came to an end yesterday and the above chart shows the final rankings linked to the Brexit referendum Remain shares.

As can be seen the top half of the table is almost totally made up of sides from places where there was a high Remain vote while the bottom is dominated by team where Leave did best.

With three Leave area sides being relegated to be replaced by possibly two from Remain areas the trend will be even more striking.

In its own way this very much reflects the Remain-Leave divide that exists and continues to overshadow our politics. Inevitably the top most financially powerful teams are in the big metropolitan area while the weaker teams are in smaller centres which are less wealthy.

In the 2016/17 the Premiership was made up of ten sides from leave areas and ten from remain. That moved to an eight-twelve split in the current season which could be six-fourteen from August.

Mike Smithson


Losing the peace

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

The whiff of panic is palpable among what passes for the Leave intelligentsia. Two years ago they were airily asserting that the EU needed a deal more than Britain did and that it could be done over a long lunch, with the EU paying for the post-prandial cigars.

Today, with the government boxed in on all sides, facing the prospect of either a cliff-edge Brexit for which next-to-no preparation has taken place or a customs arrangement that would hamstring Britain’s ability to make deals with other countries (an ability that Vote Leave decided during the referendum campaign was largely extraneous to campaigning needs, preferring to focus on the claimed prospect of millions of Turks descending on Britain and doubtful savings to be channelled to the NHS, but that their supporters have now decided is vital), Leavers are casting around for explanations.  

The intransigence of the EU and the treachery of Remainers are stock villains. Some of the braver Leavers occasionally suggest that poor planning by the government might be at fault. No Leavers yet seem willing to accept that their original premise was completely flawed. 

Diverting though the wailing and lamentations of these wretched souls might be, it gets us nowhere if we are trying to work out what comes next. Analysing their internal wranglings is to shine a torch of darkness on the subject. Illumination will come from elsewhere. 

For when Britain voted Leave, the EU took control. Its grip now is vice-like and the short and medium term options available to Britain are limited to those allowed by the EU. Unfortunately, the EU are not exercising their power responsibly.Their negotiators have become so absorbed by the sheer scope of their options that they are paying too little attention to their own strategy. 

What should the EU be aiming for? I suggest that it has three non-conflicting long term objectives. First, it wants to make sure that the EU’s rules retain coherence (so Britain must not be given special favours, even if they are in the short term economic interest of the EU, because they would destroy the EU’s long term stability).  Secondly, it wants as close and constructive a relationship with Britain as possible.Thirdly, if possible, it wants Britain in due course to decide that after all its interests are best served within the EU.  Either it should want Britain as part of the team again or it should want a friendly neighbour. 

But if this is the right strategy for the EU, it is not being followed.  Instead, at present, the EU negotiators appear to be prioritising nailing Britain to the floor in the short and medium term, seeking to get both small and large advantages out of the ineptness of the Leave chorus line and the paralysis of the British government. This is no doubt extremely satisfying for them, especially after the many examples of generalised hostility and gratuitous rudeness from Leave campaigners at every level. This is not good news for Britain. I suggest that it is not good news for the EU either. 

This needs some examples.  The obvious one is the decision to exclude Britain from access to parts of the Galileo project nominally on security grounds.  This decision is inexplicable except by reference to base commercial jockeying.  Even when that is taken into account, it still looks barely explicable: the EU will want access to the excellent intelligence information that Britain collects and to seek actively to drive a wedge between the two on such a sensitive subject looks as good a way as any to alienate a neighbour to the EU’s own detriment. 

There has been a fair amount of chortling among some commentators about the EU indicating that it might charge British citizens for visas.  Sure, the EU is entitled to do this.  But as a way of annoying those Britons who as a group feel better-disposed towards the EU while barely affecting those Britons who are most hostile to the EU, it could scarcely be bettered.   

The EU is evidently seeking to ensure that the UK remains in a customs union.  However, it is doing so in a manner that can at best be described as tin-eared and at worst as playing with matches in a setting that is already well-stocked with explosives.  M. Barnier has repeatedly floated the idea that Northern Ireland might be part of a customs union with the EU, with the customs barrier set in the Irish Sea. 

Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, has as a consequence described him as “not an honest broker” and said that “I don’t think he does understand the wider unionist culture of Northern Ireland.”.  On this at least, Arlene Foster is right.  If the EU is regarding the Good Friday Agreement as something that it is essential that the Brexit settlement should protect – and it should – then it should not be seeking to upend the balance between nationalists and unionists.  The EU’s touted solution would do exactly that. 

The DUP are not particularly concerned about their reputation outside Northern Ireland and do not trouble to charm the outside world.  Sitting on the Leave side of the fence, the DUP are no doubt doubly damned in the EU’s eyes.  Nevertheless, M. Barnier is being disingenuous. If he wants to argue that the UK as a whole should remain in a customs union with the EU for the foreseeable future until the Leavers or the UK government discover the spell to allow their magical thinking to be implemented, he should do so directly.   It’s a fair argument to make.  He should not be fomenting trouble in a part of the world that has already produced them in a plural and capitalised form.  Quite apart from anything else, it’s unlikely that trouble would stop at the EU border. 

Ultimately, the EU need a deal that is going to stick.  If the British government is cornered into signing a deal that its people are not prepared to live with in the long term, Britain is going to be a constant thorn in the EU’s flesh and the chances of a future reconciliation would be sharply diminished.  That doesn’t sound like particularly smart statesmanship to me.  But, sadly, that seems to be exactly what is going to happen. 

Alastair Meeks


YouGov’s Brexit tracker – how opinion has moved since the June 2016 referendum

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

The latest split of Labour voters

Mike Smithson


Leave till last. Identifying the next Conservative leader

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018



Considering how fondly it is remembered as a children’s book, The Hobbit has a lot of gore in it.  (The alert will already have figured out that I’m going to be talking about Conservative leadership manoeuvrings.)  Bilbo Baggins is threatened with imminent devourment on five separate occasions, which would make even the most gung-ho adventurer feel put out. 

On the first of these occasions, he has been captured by trolls.  They quiz him about whether there are others like him around.  “Lots”, he replies before realising that was not particularly smart, “No, none at all”.

Since the inglorious general election last year, the Conservative party has suffered a lot of trolling too.  The question of its leadership has been near the forefront of political discussion more or less constantly ever since.  Every time Theresa May looks to have got on the front foot, she steps on a rake in the grass.

So what changes have there been since the last time we looked at the Conservative leadership race?  Lots and none at all.  Theresa May still looks uneasy in her seat, her credibility scarcely improved since she threw away a majority in pursuit of an unobtained mandate.  She continues to struggle to balance the competing groupings in the Conservative party and the House of Commons, while carrying out an unequal negotiation with the EU.  The absence of an alternative acceptable to a large enough group of Conservatives has kept her in situ.  An uneasy equilibrium is maintained.

However, the competing groupings have changed considerably.  Immediately after the general election, three big beasts circled her, holding each other at bay: Philip Hammond, David Davis and Boris Johnson.  All three are still in government but only Boris Johnson is still seen at present by the betting markets to be in even outside contention for the top job.  Philip Hammond has upset too many Leave supporters with his candour and David Davis looks too worn down by the demands of his job.  Boris Johnson’s star has also waned with a series of gaffes and displays of disloyalty.

The gap has not been filled by any single candidate.  Theresa May has been careful not to create new contenders, in general bringing dutiful plodders rather than sparky highfliers into the Cabinet.  So all the stars that have twinkled have been little ones.  The competing groupings within the Conservative party now look like collectives rather than packs led by big beasts.

And time has taken its toll.  Damian Green, Michael Fallon and now Amber Rudd, all of whom were fancied contenders at one stage, have all been captured by spiders.  All this leads to an unusually open contest.

So what of the contenders?  As previously, I start from the viewpoint that the most important question is not who but when: when will Theresa May be replaced?  If she is replaced otherwise than at an election, the replacement will almost certainly be a Conservative with experience of government at the highest level: Conservative MPs will be loth to put forward to the membership a candidate to run the country on day one who might be out of his or her depth.

How likely is Theresa May to make the next election?  She benefits enormously from inertia.  For her to go, enough people need to decide that her time is up.  In the absence of a clear alternative and with the risks of a leadership election opening up faultlines all over the place, that is going to take some doing.  However, her performance in the last year has been lamentable in the main, with no obvious signs of improvement.   She has not recovered her authority and looks incapable of doing so.  I therefore expect her to be deposed or step down before the next election and possibly much sooner than most people anticipate.  Brexit is unlikely to be seen as completed before she goes.

To the betting markets.  The first thing that stands out is that Jacob Rees-Mogg is absurdly short.  You can lay him on Betfair for next leader at 5.8, as I write.  Theresa May has had yet another reshuffle – the third since the election – where she has overlooked his talents.  One can make the strong negative inference that Theresa May is not a fan. 

His USP is as a fluent and steely advocate for Brexit. The oddity is that this USP is most attractive before Brexit takes place but he would look more credible as a candidate if the Conservatives are replacing Theresa May in opposition or if he has gained more experience, either of which would imply that Brexit has taken place, making his USP that much less compelling.  In the absence of even the most junior ministerial experience it is going to take the most monomaniac focus on Brexit for him even to be considered by his fellow MPs.  Jacob Rees-Mogg as next Conservative leader is conceivable but it surely isn’t a 4/1 shot (20/1 sounds about right to me at present).  Every failure for him to receive advancement is a further weakening of his chances. 

You might simply lay him, and I would regard that as sound at present prices.  His price is so short that it is distorting the rest of the market, meaning that there must be value out there all over the place.  But who to pick?

Many Conservatives see Brexit as Thorin regarded the Arkenstone – the heart of the mountain, a jewel with value beyond measure.  Some Conservatives see Brexit as Gollum regarded the ring – their precioussss, something that bewitches them and corrupts them, even if they have no real idea what to do with it.  This tendency has only intensified since the referendum vote.  In this environment, any attempt to replace Theresa May before Brexit is completely out of the way will mean that many electors will be applying loyalty tests of varying degrees of stringency. 

Any candidate who backed Remain is going to need to be pretty damn convincing in their conversion before gaining the trust of those voters.  Most are going to fail that test if it is still relevant, and even if it isn’t there’s going to be a residual distrust among ardent Leavers towards people who, as they saw it, were on the wrong side of the defining dividing line of the age.  As Bilbo could have told you, skin-changers are discomfiting even if they ultimately turn out to be on your side.

So, putting the pieces together, I’m looking for MPs of fairly senior Cabinet rank who have some presentational skills, who have not become soiled goods and who are not anathema to Leave supporters.  Michael Gove at 11 (10/1) is a decent bet, in my view.  Sajid Javid’s price has shortened to 16.5 with his promotion to Home Secretary but still looks too long to me, though his Brexit vacillations did him no good at all.  Jeremy Hunt at 16 (15/1) looks very good value too – his recantation of Remain seems to have satisfied the backwoodsmen. 

But what of Esther McVey?  She’s an experienced minister in a senior role who backed Leave.  She has the huge potential advantage (in an internal Conservative party election) of being viscerally hated by Labour supporters for reasons that have nothing to do with Brexit.  She is an experienced presenter: her first career was in television.  I got on her at 75 (74/1) and she’s still available at 65 (64/1).  Worth a flutter, I think.

Alastair Meeks


If you fancy a 2% return in a little over 8 months this is the bet for you

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

William Hill have a market on whether there will be a second EU in/out referendum before the 1st of January 2019, I’m backing the No side.

Logistically I just cannot see a referendum happening this year. It would require legislation to be passed by both parts of Parliament, given the number of Leavers in both places, and Mrs May’s lack of majority in both Houses such a bill is likely to get bogged down in Parliamentary trench warfare.

I suspect if Mrs May tried to introduce a bill to introduce a second referendum it would likely trigger the end of her premiership and the fall of the government which could lead to an early election which would delay any such bill to legislate for a second referendum.

With the prospects of a very watered down Brexit being delivered by Mrs May such as remaining in a customs union and free movement being retained in all but name I’m not sure there’s much appetite for another referendum from the Remain side.


Update – PBer Sandpit has alerted me to the Betfair market that pays 8% for the same bet.