Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


The Con-Lab Brexit talks are dead and the parties should say so

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

The differences are unbridgeable and any deal unratifiable

Like a sketch show parody of a Victorian dinner crossed with Weekend at Bernie’s, the negotiators in the Con-Lab Brexit negotiations have been determined to maintain the pretence that all is still well despite the talks having died some time during the soup course; it’s just that everyone is too polite to say so.

That pretence has finally begun to break down as both the realities of the talks themselves and the combined effect of the local elections just gone and the European elections pending take their toll on MPs of both main parties. All the same, Lidington, Starmer and co will still resume and – who knows – might even produce an agreement.

If they do, it’ll be another classic case of conferencitis, where those in the room were so keen to do a deal that they forgot to take adequate account of the need to get that deal ratified. It wouldn’t be the first time this’d have happened in the Brexit process, of course. Cameron’s initial negotiations produced an outcome so meagre that he’d probably have been better either not starting the talks at all. Even more obviously, May’s Withdrawal Arrangement has proven unratifiable despite the risks of not ratifying it.

With Con and Lab MPs already in mutinous mood, the demands on the negotiators were always impossible. Con MPs certainly won’t sign up to any major concessions and if sufficiently provocative concessions are included, might well react by moving directly against the PM. By contrast, Labour MPs, uncomfortably aware of the Lib Dems, Greens and other Remainers breathing down their necks, were hardly likely to sign up to a Brexit most are already deeply uncomfortable with, especially if the PM couldn’t be trusted to deliver it.

The demand that any deal be put to a ‘confirmatory referendum’ should be the last straw that forces a breakdown. It stems from Labour’s conference and is an excellent example of why policy shouldn’t be made by composite. A referendum is inimical to any Brexit deal. Opinion has moved so far against compromise and into mutually hostile No Deal and Remain/Revoke camps that it would be impossible to legislate for a referendum without both those options being on the ballot, and impossible to deliver any deal if they are there.

What incentive then is there for the government to sign up to something it knows could not pass? Likewise, though less often stated, it would surely have to be a quid pro quo that if the government signed up to many Labour demands, then Labour would have to be obliged to campaign for the deal in a public vote: a requirement that MPs, members and the NEC would be highly likely to reject in favour of Remain.

Put simply, Labour (although not yet its leadership) will not now allow any Brexit to occur, except by accident. The Tories (although perhaps not yet its leadership) will not allow any possibility of Brexit not occurring, except by accident. The demand for an EURef2 is a deal-breaker.

In all probability, we were always going to end up here anyway. Even if the referendum demand hadn’t been made, Corbyn’s insistence on membership of the Customs Union and for the UK to mirror a whole swathe of EU regulation would probably have made any agreement unratifiable on the Con side.

When the talks do break down, where does that leave the key players? For Labour, most will be unaffected. Starmer will gain credit for engaging and then effectively disengaging. Corbyn won’t be damaged so much by the failure of the talks as by his continuing clear acceptance of the principle of Brexit, if not all the current details. MPs will feel emboldened against the leadership again (a feeling likely to grow if the Euroelection results are poor for the party) but his position remains largely secure.

By contrast, May will have run out of road. The Withdrawal Agreement remains the only deal on the table but one whose best chance of ratification has passed, as both Tory and Labour MPs retreat from the compromise it represents, in reflection of the public doing likewise. What purpose does the PM then serve? It’s hard to see any, other than acting as a tactical bed-blocker against disliked potential successors.

But that’s not a sustainable position, as the clock is running down on the October Brexit extension, on May’s 12-month notional protection from a leadership challenge and on the next general election (which may be a lot sooner than 2022). If the Tories do as badly in the EP elections as polls suggest, members and MPs will demand changes and may well conclude that the change needed is to appeal to the voters attracted by Farage’s simplistic populism – which would at least make clear the choice that’s been implicit for weeks: No Deal or No Brexit.

David Herdson


Following the firmer news on TMay’s exit Johnson declares that he’s running and moves to a 27% favourite in the betting

Thursday, May 16th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

So the CON backbenchers who have been unhappy with Mrs May’s handling of the brexit process have sort of got their way and there is agreed process for how she will go and when. The 1922 Chair Graham Brady summed up things like this:-

“We have agreed to meet to decide the timetable for the election of a new leader of the Conservative party as soon as the second reading has occurred and that will take place regardless of what the vote is on the second reading – whether it passes or whether it fails.”

Already ERG figures are wanting it earlier and Mr Johnson, the former London Mayor and Foreign Secretary, has made that he will be entering the race – developments which have led to more money going on him on the Betfair Exchange.

So the post by Alastair meeks that we published overnight was nicely timed and I think his assessment is good. Because it is not clear cut and there is a lot of anxiety in parts of the Conservative Party about whether Johnson is up to being Prime Minister we’re going to see a whole raft of names, possibly, coming in. Some have declared themselves already and had expect others to follow.

In all of this remember the old matra that the long term favourite for the CON leadership never gets its. Will Johnson be the one to break this “rule”?

Another factor is that we could be heading for a Maidenhead by-election if TMay decides to step aside as an MP once she is no longer PM.

Mike Smithson


If you are looking for clarity about what’ll happen in the Euros then you won’t get it from the latest polls

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

Dealing with turnout is very challenging

One of the common criticisms of pollsters in recent years is that they have a tendency to herd particularly as we get closer to elections. Well for sure that’s one thing that isn’t happening this time. With just a week and one day to go the above chart shows the Brexit party lead in the most recent polls and as can be seen there is a huge gap between the figures from YouGov and those from ComRes just out this morning.

I think we ought to acknowledge that this is a very difficult election to poll because everything’s dependent on turnout and if there is differential turnout between the parties then that could have a huge impact.

One factor that people not involved in politics perhaps don’t often appreciate that the elections that see the most on the ground campaigning are for local councils.

The last time the Euro elections in the UK were held alone, without simultaneous elections taking place on the same day, was in 1999 and the turnout was 24%. This year’s election comes three weeks after the locals and I’m expecting turnout somewhere in the mid-thirties. My reasoning is that there is a much greater interest in these elections because Brexit has dominated domestic politics coverage in the UK for the last 3 years.

All the recent polls have shown turnout figures considerably higher than that we have historically associated with elections to the European Parliament. For instance the latest ComRes had 60% of its sample rating their likelihood to vote at between 8 to 10. My view is that it’s not going to happen and am betting on overall turnout in the 30-40 range,

Maybe in the final polls to be published before the election a week tomorrow we will see some convergence but maybe we won’t.

Mike Smithson


It’s now just possible to contemplate that my 32p Euros bet at 990/1 might just be a winner

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

Just before the local elections I offered political punters on the Betfair exchange Euro election that I’d bet £2 on the LDs at 990 to win most seats in the Euros. This was pure speculation and something I often do. Normally there are no takers but in this came someone came forward and laid 32p of my money at the 990/1 price.

Sure this is still a long shot but the odds have tightened to 38.

The main closing LD strategy is to try to persuade remain backers of all parties that the best way they can use their Euros vote is by voting for the party. If in the next 9 days enough of them switch then the LDs might end up second in the election with just an outside chance of top.

The latest BMG poll has the LDs just 7 points behind BXP which could just be surmountable.

Getting super longshots through is one of the great pleasures of betting and the joy is that you are not risking much cash.

Mike Smithson


The Tories slump to new lows in both Westminster and Euro polls

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

The blues down to 22% with Opininum WM poll

And for the Euros TMay’s party down to 11% below the LDs

There’s really little you can say about the latest two surveys from Opinium which have awful numbers for the Tories for both Westminster and the Euro elections in 12 days time.

Clearly this is an abnormal period with the blue team finding itself fighting elections that it never believed we’re going to happen and Farage’s Brexit party is taking every opportunity to rub TMay’s nose in it.

You have got to admire Farage’s far-sightedness. He established the new party when it was far from clear that there would be Euro elections and his gamble is paying of handsomely.

Also significant in terms of attracting tactical votes in the Euros is the Lib Dems moving to third place ahead of the Tories. Their whole strategy is about being seen to be the strongest voice for Britain staying in the EU and the hope is that the remain voters in other parties might decide to switch to them for this unique election. These number underline the case for that.

This is making CHUK, closest rivals, looking absolutely screwed with just 3% from Opinium for the the euros. In the complex way that seats are allocated in the European Parliament that sort of vote share is not going to produce them a single MEP. The problem as well is that this inevitably coincides with the Lib Dems getting some traction undermining a key reason why CHUK are there on the Ballot at all.

There might be more polling tonight and if there is this post will be updated.

Polling update – new ComRes with startling changes

Mike Smithson


“Bollocks to Brexit!” will be a net vote gainer not a vote loser for the LDs

Friday, May 10th, 2019

Lots of talk over the past 24 hours about the Lib Dem slogan on one of its leaflets for the European parliament election campaign. Clearly the word “bollocks” is one that is on the very margins of what is acceptable in polite society but it does get home the message well.

Also “Bollocks to Brexit” has the added advantage of alliteration and it is very clear where the party stands. This in sharp contrast to Corbyn’s LAB which is hamstrung in this election by not being able to be unequivocal. Is it for Brexit or against?

When like the LDs you’re not one of the big two parties, or Nigel Farage, it is very hard to command the attention of the media. This is still the case even after last week’s local elections which saw enormous gains for the LDs against both Labour and the Conservatives.

There’s another battle that’s taking place on May 23rd and that is which is the strongest voice for Remain. These are elections when normal party loyalties tend to be abandoned and it is all about simple positioning.

It was interesting that CHUK’s MP, Anna Soubry, has been one of the most vocal in attacking Lib Dem choice of wording. For it this new party that is most vulnerable to a revived Liberal Democrats. CHUK, a breakaway founded by CON and LAB MPs in February didn’t contest the local elections at all but quite clearly, is hoping for a boost in the May 23rd vote.

It has run into issues with its logo which does not appear on ballot papers but clearly it is aiming for a part of the market that the Lib Dems are competing very actively over. The yellows of course are an established party with strong organisation in areas where they have achieved local government success which is in marked contrast with CHUK.

The Lib Dems are also competing for the unequivocal remain section of the electorate that with the Green Party which of course is much more established and has a Westminster presence.

What last week’s local results have done is to make it easier for the Lib Dems to present themselves as the prime voice of Remain and it will be interesting to see how they perform. It is possible that they could get into third place ahead of the Conservatives.

Mike Smithson



Punters make it a 30% that Brexit won’t happen before 2022 or not at all

Thursday, May 9th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

Leaving in the July-Dec 2019 period remains favourite but only a 38% one

With two weeks to go before the Euro elections I thought it useful to look at the betting on where Brexit stands at and the market featured is on when it will happen if at all.

This might be wishful thinking on the part of those who wish Brexit won’t ever happen but the betting price on the Brexit timing market featured in the chart above sees punters making at is a 30% chance that it will not take place before 2022 or not at all. It is second favourite behind the July to December 2019 segment which is currently rated as a 38% chance.

    Remember these charts are not polling but a reflection of how those ready to risk cash predicting political outcomes see things.

Everything is of course dependent on whether the government can get a meaningful vote on a deal through the House of Commons and as we’ve seen over the last six month that is a massive challenge. There are two blocks of MPs Who are determined not to support that which is currently on the table – the ERG Brexit hardliners and those behind the People’s Vote campaign. There are no signs that either of them are changing their view.

Could the hardliners conclude that any Brexit is better than no Brexit at all?

The other possibility is the UK leaving without a deal something that was made illegal in the controversial backench bill passed by MPs by one vote last month. That of itself cannot stop a no deal Brexit. Whether the European leadership would actually decide to kick Britain out without a deal and all the consequences that would mean for both the UK and the 27 countries remain is hard to say.

Theresa May is still fighting to get something through and has now set new deadline of July. Of course this changed timing is all linked with her own position and the desire of many within her party that she move on and another leader takes over. Her talks with Labour appear to have stalled but that might change.

What we don’t know is what the UK political climate will be like after the European election results are declared on March 27th. Will a big showing for Farage’s party impact on things? What if the combined anti-Brexit parties – CHUK/LD/GRN/SNP – do remarkably well?

So lots of uncertainty – the ideal background for betting.

Mike Smithson


It takes some chutzpah to argue that CON & LAB local losses were down to Brexit but that GRN and LD gains weren‘t

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

I’ve just come across an article by Mike Hume on Spiked online that argues that Brexit was the main reason why the Tories and LAB did badly in the local elections last Thursday. But the same article goes on to argue by implication that this effect did not help the Lib Dems and the Greens, both strong pro-remain parties, to achieve all their gains.

I’d respectively suggest to Mr Hume that you can’t have one without the other. This is from his piece:

“The local elections became the outlet for a national outpouring of anger, frustration and ‘fuck the lot of them!’ over the Brexit debacle in Westminster. The humiliation of Theresa May’s two-faced Brexit-betraying Conservatives and the failure of Jeremy Corbyn’s dishonest Remainer Labour Party both confirm Brexit’s status as the defining issue in British political life.

It does not much matter today what your policies are on the bins, or anything bigger. Brexit and the crisis of British democracy is now what every election is about. The dustbin of history awaits any who doubt it..”

Actually I think that he is totally misreading it. Firstly he seeks to define the only “true” Brexit as being leaving without a deal, Secondly Labour is not a Remain party although many of its supporters would like it to be.

The problem that both CON and LAB face at the moment is not Brexit itself but that they appear to be split and all the experience of the past suggests that voters don’t like divided parties. They want clarity.

The issue that is splitting the Tory party is the argument between the hard no-dealers and those who want to implement the referendum in a manner that least damages the economy.  But it is not Brexit itself but the divides it highlights within the party that makes it less attractive to voters. Labour has a similar issue with the relationship between Corbyn and the vast bulk of his MPs. The image portrayed is split party and that, in low turnout elections like the locals up does not help with turnout.

Mike Smithson