Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


And so to the first leaders’ TV debate of GE2019 – without a remainer

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Watch live on PB from 8pm GMT


The number of Tory MPs elected on December 12th will determine what type of Brexit we get, if we get Brexit

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

As the late United States President, LBJ once said “Politics is the ability to count”. Currently the polls and the betting markets have a Conservative Majority as the most likely outcome, but these are fallible; the manifestoes are not out yet and the nation may not be comfortable with the idea of a large Tory Majority Gov’t.

In this thread I will examine the numerology of the next election working through various scenarios:

First up 326 + CON MPs – If the Conservatives gain any sort of majority, they are into power and Johnson’s agreement is getting passed. There is a difference between this parliament and the last when May also took over with a small majority – all the rebellion on the anti-europe side is gone, Steve Baker, Owen Patterson, Rees Mogg and Priti Patel are all completely onboard the Johnson project in a way they never were with May. On the other side, the Soubries and even Grieves and Letwins are gone. The most europhile Tories present will likely be Stephen Brine, Stephen Hammond and Greg Clark, possibly fewer than those three if the Lib Dems have a particularly good night and Labour a very poor one.

There still may be no majority for “No Deal” in the house, and that could affect things later in the parliament as we move toward the internal deadlines of the transition period but that is tomorrow’s problem. For now it looks rosy aboard the Tory express.

323 – 325 CON MPs – The exact numbers depend on the number of Sinn Fein MPs re-elected. At present this looks likely to be six but might be another number, seven or five depending on F&ST and Foyle. Each Sinn Fein MP is effectively worth 1/2 to the party closest to a majority as they do not take their seats. Let us assume for the sake of argument it is six Sinn Fein MPs. This sets the effective majority bar for the Tories (Or anyone else) at precisely 323 MPs and the maths then works as above.

322 CON MPs (Or possibly 321) – This is where the numbers start to get “interesting”, and this is the lowest possible number of Tories I make it that can pass the Johnson deal. It is true that though they are not the Tories greatest fans at present, neither the DUP nor the Lib Dems are particularly keen on Corbyn getting into Number 10 Downing Street. In the end a Johnson Queens Speech would probably get through though.

Just as Conservative remainers have been purged, so too have Brexiteers amiable to any Johnson deal on the other side of the house. Barron, Campbell, Mann, Fitzpatrick all gone. The Lisa Nandys of the parliament would quickly fall into line with the Labour whip, secure in another five years of tenure and assured by the fact Labour voters in northern towns would evidently have put other issues largely ahead of Brexit. There are left two possible ‘rebels’ on the opposition benches, Caroline Flint and possibly Jason Zadrozny. I make it these two would be allies to Johnson in terms of Brexit though he could not rely on Flint for confidence or anything else. The numbers might work with 321 if both Flint and Zadrozny are elected but that is the absolute de minimis.

313 – 320 CON MPs (Possibly 321) – A similar number to May you may say. The electoral dynamics this time round are different though. The Letwins and Gaukes are vanquished and the Tories old friends the DUP are likely back and able to influence events. At 320 MPs I don’t believe Johnson’s deal will get through, but the likelihood of ‘No deal’ is also probably at it’s highest. A ‘No deal’ Brexit works for the DUP and the tangible need to deliver some, any form of Brexit is palpable for the Tories. As we drop below 320 MPs, the likes of Greg Clark may again pop their head above the parapet to prevent “No Deal”, and for each number below there is another opposition MP to add. The danger is very much there though in the above range.

295 – 312 CON MPs – The chances of a “No deal” exit are lower beyond this point, but Labour are still well well short. Sturgeon’s demand of a Scottish referendum for Labour support being something the Lib Dems are strongly against and also the idea of putting Corbyn into No 10. The Lib Dems hold the whip hand in this scenario and they can now demand a confirmatory referendum on any deal.

Fundamentally there is a rum choice for Johnson to take – either have case by case support from the Lib Dems, no Brexit and a weak administration for five years with the possibility of it collapsing at the most inopportune moment or face a 2020 election against a new fresh faced Labour leader that the Tories will likely lose. His party may baulk at the idea of doing any sort of deal with the Lib Dems, but it is likely also in this scenario that Labour won’t have done particularly well and might be looking for another leader. There always needs to be a PM, quite who it is in this scenario I’m not sure.

294 or less – The numbers for any sort of functioning Labour minority Government are very tricky and don’t become any easier till Labour + SNP start to approach 325. Nevertheless I think someone from the opposition benches (Probably Corbyn, maybe someone else) will be put in place at least long enough for a second referendum to be put through. The key point is below this level there is surely no way Johnson can carry on, he doesn’t really have any choice but to resign and send for Corbyn and one of the weakest Labour Governments in history.

Labour’s ability to affect the sort of change Corbyn is looking for will be minimal, but Johnson at this point surely has to send for the Leader of the Opposition having been soundly defeated on his platform for the election.

So in short

322+ = Tory Gov’t + Deal
313 – 322 = Tory Gov’t + No deal danger zone
295 – 312 = Second referendum on Johnson or Corbyn’s deal
294 or below, Second referendum on Corbyn’s deal



Focus on Wokingham where two ex-CON MPs are slugging it out against each other

Friday, November 15th, 2019

The longstanding Brexiteer versus the defector to the LDs

The Berkshire constituency of Wokingham is one of the most intriguing battle grounds at the General Election for it is where the veteran Brexiteer, John Redwood, is seeking to defend his seat against the remain backing former CON MP from the neighbouring constituency, Philip Lee. Redwood has been MP there since 1987.

It will be recalled that when Parliament resumed in September it was while Johnson was speaking that Phillip Lee crossed the floor of the House of Commons from the Tory benches to sit next to Jo Swinson. His defection left the Tories with no working majority in the House of Commons

Lee and Redwood, of course, have totally different views of the EU with the former being closer to voters in Wokingham than the latter. At the referendum Wokingham went 57% remain.

This is a seat which is part of the Unite to Remain alliance and there is no Green standing. The key importance of this is that it is a signal to LD activists outside the area that it is a key battle ground and where they should help.

There was a small sample Survation poll which had Redwood 4% ahead.

In Euro2019 the LDs came top in Wokingham with 33.45% with the Greens getting 11.3%. The Tories were estimated to have got 13.4% with BP at 29.4%. LAB was at 4.9%

The question here is whether Redwood has built up support over the past third of a century there to get re-elected. Everything depends on the importance of Brexit to those who voted for Redwood at GE2017.

Ladbrokes currently make the Tories 1/4 favourites with the LDs at 11/4 which I regard as value. I’d assess this as closer to 50/50.

Mike Smithson


Tories trading today at record highs on the Commons Seats spreadbetting markets

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

With nominations for GE2019 closing at 4pm tomorrow we are just four weeks away from polling day. Postal voting is likely to start perhaps a week and a half later depending on the local authority.

The Tory polling position is nothing like as dominant as it was at this stage in 2017. Indeed four weeks ahead of that election ICM had CON 49%, LAB 27%, Farage’s party 6%, LD 9. TMay’s team was totally dominating the narrative and LAB looked doomed.

Then, of course, came the Tory manifesto with its dementia tax plan and the whole mood of the election totally changed. But just because the narrative changed last time round does not mean it will be the same.

My view is that the final week is going to be crucial because the country could be then so much closer to Brexit actually happening. A majority for Johnson would ensure that the referendum would be honoured while if he fell short then Brexit would be in doubt. If LAB is still some way behind in the polling then the possibility of Corbyn being PM would be far less.

This is likely to matter most in those seats where Remain came out top. Will Tory-voting remain backers stick with their party? The question then is whether possible CON losses in Remainia will be more than offset by gains from LAB.

Mike Smithson


The Brexit divide within LAB’s GE2017 supporter base

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

LAB seeing significant seepage amongst its GE2107 leavers

But holding up better amongst remainers though the LDs a worry

What’s going to be key is being seen as the main option for tactical votes in key battlegrounds where the Tories are on the offensive, A problem is that a party that’s seen to be hemorrhaging support would find it harder to present itself as the tactical vote choice.

My view is that so much depends on the final week because the one thing that will certainly trigger Brexit will be a CON outright majority. Johnson’s statement that he’d like the UK to be out of the EU by Christmas almost certainly means that it is Brexit that will dominate voters’ minds in the closing stages.

Note that the polling I’m using here is Deltapoll which has not given the don’t knows for these cross-breaks.

Mike Smithson


After an eventful day a CON overall majority now a 60% chance on Betfair

Monday, November 11th, 2019

But is it a bigger deal as is being made out?

Today’s move by Farage sounds like a very important development but are we over stating it? Much of the coverage seems to be based on the widespread assumption that all the BP party vote will automatically go to the Tories.

This is of course nonsense because a quite large slice of BP support comes from former LAB voters who would never go near the Tories.

So the effect of Farage pulling candidate out in Conservative seats could boost Labour as well.

BP is not a political organisation which can be compared to other parties. It has no members and Farage is leader as long as he wants. It has inherited the UKIP characteristic of being very poor in first past the post elections with a tendency to be overstated in the polls

At GE2017 Farage’s then party chalked up 1.9% of the overall GB vote which was much smaller than most pollsters had recorded.

I feel sorry for many of the BP candidates who put themselves forward in good faith and now have been ditched.

  • Chart of Betfair exchange prices from
  • Mike Smithson


    Foxes and Hedgehogs – a tale of tactics without strategy

    Friday, November 8th, 2019

    Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” (Sun Tzu). Something those Remainer MPs behind the Benn Act would do well to reflect on. However successful it was in stopping a Halloween No Deal exit and, arguably, forcing Boris to negotiate a Withdrawal Agreement he could sell to his party, its effect has been to put the Tories in a strong position as they embark on their General Election campaign. How so?

    It allows Boris to say that he:-

    • Got the Withdrawal Agreement reopened.
    • Got rid of the backstop for the UK.
    • Got a deal before his “do or die” date.
    • Should be given the Parliament needed to get this enacted.
    • Can get a final deal with the EU done before the transition period ends on 31 December 2010, some 264 working days (minus Parliamentary holidays) after the election.
    • Is the only person who can get Brexit done, thus appealing to probably the largest group of voters in the country – the GetItOverWith voters.
    • Is on the People’s side versus an obstructive Parliament, conveniently ignoring that the obstructive Parliament was not foisted on the People but elected by them.

    Even worse, it has helped elide the distinction between the Withdrawal Agreement and the final deal with the EU i.e. the basis on which Britain will trade with 27 EU countries. And not just trade: security, intelligence, law enforcement, defence, data protection, IP, transport, energy, civil nuclear power, fishing, migration – legal and illegal, the environment, financial services – all (and more) will need a new settlement. There will be many voters – those who don’t care much about Brexit, those not following the detail  – who will assume Boris’s deal is the final deal; once out, Brexit is done. That is certainly how the Tories are presenting it – let’s do Brexit and move on. No matter how untrue, it is an attractive siren song.

    So much energy and fury was focused on avoiding No Deal last month, it will be hard to make voters realise that in just over a year’s time Britain faces exactly the same prospect if no FTA (and other agreements) with the EU have been agreed: departure from the transition on a No Deal basis, an overnight rupture of all existing agreements and arrangements, life as a third country. Or the same dilemma – whether to extend the transition or not. But in barely six months time.

    Could the same tactics be employed? Alas, this too has been stymied by the Benn Act’s success. If the Tories get their majority, the new Parliament is likely to be much less amenable to similar guerrilla legislation. Many of the MPs involved, many experienced MPs, those most opposed to No Deal will have left. The Tories will claim a fresh mandate, if necessary, to leave on a No Deal basis. Already Cabinet Ministers (Gove on Today) are resiling from what was said in Parliament on 22 October (by the Attorney-General who promised MPs a say on whether the transition should be extended). So the chances of another Benn Act are low.

    Maybe the Tories’ manifesto will rule out a No Deal departure. Maybe – but it is the default as the ERG well understand. From their perspective No Deal has not been ruled out, simply postponed. Little wonder they were so willing to embrace the new WA – sacrificing the DUP’s support was a small price to pay to get a clean break from the EU and a majority Tory government with no recalcitrant Remainer MPs. For all the stupidity on show from many ERG MPs, like the hedgehog they know one big thing – never to lose sight of the prize: a clean break from the EU.

    And it is in sight – and quite likely, even if Boris wants otherwise. There is not much time to conclude an FTA with the EU, especially if the intention is to diverge from EU laws in key areas. And this must be the intention because what would be the point of Brexit otherwise? The greater the divergence, the harder it will be to get EU agreement. The EU had an incentive to stop a No Deal exit – the desire not to harm Ireland. But it is now protected with its own backstop. So there is much less incentive for the EU to agree an FTA unless it gives the EU what it wants – no unseemly competition and/or money for access to its market. Plus it now has a year to lure away those companies/individuals who are not ecstatic at the prospect of less access, Non-Tariff barriers, tariffs and general administrative nuisance. A No Deal departure will only make it easier for the EU to do more luring. What of the fabled UK-US FTA?  Will this come first? If so, No Deal with the EU is practically inevitable.

    It is quite remarkable that nearly 3½ years after the referendum, we still don’t know whether Britain will choose trade with the US, even if this is at the expense of its relationship with the EU, or vice versa. Nor do we know what Britain’s trade negotiation objectives will be, whether in relation to the EU or the US. How will differences between US and EU approaches be reconciled, for instance? Something more than the motherhood and apple pie statements contained in the Political Declaration are needed and should be part of the election debate.

    What trade-offs? What divergence? In which areas? To what extent? For whose benefit? At what cost? To whom? What does less / smarter regulation actually mean?

    There is an opportunity here for political parties who don’t share the Brexiteer’s Panglossian belief that FTAs are quick and easy to agree. In reality one party only – the Lib Dems, Labour having decided on yet another renegotiation and a referendum. But the Lib Dems have decided to stake all on stopping Brexit, a policy which will shortly become redundant. They are – for now – absenting themselves from any debate about what Britain’s post-Brexit trade, foreign and other policies should be. Indeed, by presenting themselves as the Revoke and Remain party (as if anyone had any doubt) they risk ensuring that this debate will not happen at all or only amongst Tories, out of sight of the voters. It is a strategic error – not just because revoking Article 50 without regard to the voters is not democratic – but because once Remain goes what is left?  Rejoin?  Really?

    There is a much more urgent important debate to be had – about what sort of relationship Britain should have with the EU, the US and other countries once it has left, whether the transition should be extended, whether Britain should look West to the US or to Europe or China (Any thoughts, Ms Swinson on Huawei and 5G or Chinese pressure on UK universities?) about the trade-offs to be made, what sort of divergence there should be, about what sort of country and economy Britain wants to be.

    The time for that debate is now – before the election. Those on the Remain side need to be in that debate, arguing for their vision of what sort of country Britain should be, what its future relationship with its neighbours should be, not just hoping to refight the referendum. If that debate doesn’t happen now, it will be Tory hard Brexiteers – those who have known all along what they want – who will make the key decisions. Clever Parliamentary ruses later will be of no help.



    A CON majority drops out of the GE2019 betting favourite slot following Farage’s campaign threat

    Friday, November 1st, 2019

    Ever since a 2019 general election became a certainty punters made a CON majority the favourite outcome touching nearly a 60% chance on the Betfair according to the chart.

    That’s all changed following Farage announcement that his Brexit Party will fight a full range of seats thus possibly splitting the leave vote unless Johnson is ready to form a leave alliance.

    Looking at the official election timetable the last point at which Farage has got to decide is 4pm on Thursday December 14th which is the strict closure of nominations.

    The real problem Farage has got is that the person who has the most influence on Johnson is DCummings who has a history of arguments with the former UKIP leader and its hard to see any accommodation being made.

    The question then would be whether Farage, if his approach is rebuffed, has the bottle to go forward with his threat to field a full slate of candidates with the risk that Brexit itself could be at risk.

    It would be ironic if differing views over what Brexit should be is what keeps the UK in the EU.

    Mike Smithson