Archive for the 'Article 50' Category


Ladbrokes make it 6/4 that there’ll be another Brexit referendum before the end of next year

Monday, October 14th, 2019

And 4/1 that Remain would win

Given how difficult Johnson has had in winning votes in the House of Commons this morning’s Queen’s Speech had a touch a fantasy about it. His Government is in a minority and thanks to the Fixed-Term Parliament Act he is unable to call a general election to ameliorate the situation.

So having the monarch with all the ceremonial trappings listing the legislative plans was a bit it strange given there are simply not the CON MP numbers to get anything through. This is a programme that cannot be enacted and it was almost embarrassing that the Queen had to go along with the situation.

The big question now is whether we are heading for a new referendum on whatever deal eventually comes out of Brussels. Interestingly Corbyn loyalist and possible leadership contender, Rebecca Long-Bailey, was saying this morning that a referendum on the deal should come before a general election. That’s a good pointer to how her party could go.

Betfair have market up on which will come first – a second EU referendum or a new general election and the latter is the 1/3 odds on favourite. I have gone for the former at 3/1 which scenes an attractive price.

On the Ladbrokes betting I like the 4/1 on a Remain victory before the end of next year.

Mike Smithson


2020 or later now betting favourite for when the next general election will be held

Friday, October 11th, 2019

On a big political day the money on Betfair, according to the has been going on the next general election taking place next year or later. This option has just edged December from the favourite slot.

I’ve never been convinced of December because staging such a vote when the day’s are shortest and voters attentions are focused on the holiday never looked like a possibility.

Meanwhile Corbyn has announced that he’ll step down as LAB leader if his party loses the coming election. Whether this will help or hinder the party is hard to say. He has the distinction of receiving the worst ratings ever for an opposition leader and all the past experience is that leader numbers are the best guide to electoral outcomes.

Also in the betting a no deal Brexit this year has dropped to a 12% chance.

Mike Smithson


The mood changes on Brexit but the devil will be in the detail

Friday, October 11th, 2019

A UK Brexit by the end of the year now 38% betting favourite

Judging by today’s front pages the prospect for a deal on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU look better than ever. Certainly Johnson’s meeting with his Irish counterpart on the Wirral yesterday looks very promising but at the moment we do not know exactly what concessions have been made and whether that will be acceptable to the DUP.

A political problem of course is that there are two communities in Northern Ireland, but that only one of them the protestants, sends MPs to Westminster. Sinn Fein competes in elections and wins a clutch of seats which it never fills.

There’s also been the issue that Stormont has been suspended for nearly two years because of the failure of the DUP and Sinn Fein to agree. One positive thing of the current situation over Brexit is that it might get the Parliament in Belfast functioning again.

A key part of the the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was that both communities should share power and that has not always been easy to achieve.

The DUP, which got just 36% of the Northern Irish vote at the last general election has always made its red line that this part of the UK should not be treated differently from other parts. How they will react to what was discussed yesterday day is is a big question though so it is going to be hard for them to oppose something that that has wide agreement elsewhere.

One thing we do know know is that the overall agreement has to be sanctioned by the House of Commons something that Theresa May struggled to achieve and failed three times.

I think we could now see see opponents of Brexit at Westminster seeking to ensure that the deal is agreed by a confirmatory referendum. It becomes harder to argue against that once we know exactly what is involved. 

The mood on the Brexit betting markets has changed but it is still only a 38% chance on the Betfair Exchange that the UK will leave the EU by the end of the year. Before yesterday it was about 30%.

Mike Smithson


It’s looking like a no-deal brexit or else an Article 50 extension

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

If the front pages have this right then the chances of Johnson getting his deal through look very thin indeed and so the only options remaining are a no-deal Brexit or else it’s an Article 50 extension.

The latter,  of course, would breach the the deadlines that Johnson set for himself on taking over at Number 10 and the consequences of such a move are very hard to fathom. The big plan, I guess, is for there to be an extension but for it to be seen that this has not been because of Johnson.

This could be dangerous stuff and I wonder whether we might hear calls for Theresa May’s deal to be resurrected and to be put to MPs again. This, of course, has been rejected three times already.

The problem is Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago which brought an end to the troubles that so dominated the politics of these islands from the late 60s onwards.

It was because the Irish Republic and the UK were both in the EU that made such an agreement possible. That is why it has been so hard finding a solution that works for Brexit and is politically acceptable.

In retrospect Theresa May’s deal with the Irish backstop was an elegant solution and was actually a huge compromise by the EU27 something that has not been fully appreciated in the UK.

Another referendum appears to be be increasingly talked about and I wonder whether that might gather momentum as we approach this critical time period. Could we see a backbench bill being put forward and getting the backing of MPs? There might just be a possibility of that getting through. This would probably delay a general election.

Mike Smithson


On the betting markets it’s now a 74% chance that a general election will happen BEFORE a UK exit from the EU

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

There are too many examples in political betting when favourites have not won to make the assertion that betting can be predictive. What historical trends do show, as in the above chart, is how those ready to risk their cash on the Betfair exchange are seeing things at a given moment.

As is reflected above over the past six months there have been periods when the money has been going on a UK exit happening first and when a general election is seen as more likely to take place.

At the moment the 74% favourite is that we’ll see an election first. That seems to take the view that there will be no crashing out of the EU without a deal at the end of the month.

The real challenge at the moment is that the executive cannot command a majority in parliament and there is always the possibility that the majority of MPs in the Commons will take control. Perhaps the only way of resolving this is through a general election something that Corbyn and not Johnson are now able to determine.


Mike Smithson



With 23 days to go punters make it a 21% chance that the UK will leave the EU this month

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

And another ex-CON MP joins the LDs

This is all getting very tight. A new working day starts and there are just 23 to go before the article 50 deadline comes into being with the UK either leaving the EU or a further extension is agreed to.

The above chart shows that the betting money on Betfair going on the UK not actually leaving on the due date. This is the busiest current UK political betting market and I expect to see a lot more activity in the days ahead.

An extension, of course, is something that the UK cannot insist on unilaterally. This will have to be agreed by the EU27 at their big meeting next week.

On the domestic front the fiercely anti-brexit Lib Dems see another prominent former Tory MP join their ranks. Heidi Allen, who sits for South Cambridgeshire, has been a key player in orchestrating the “Unite to Remain” effort and I assume some sort of deal has been done between her and Jo Swinson about whether she can stand in the seat at the coming general election.

This means that the Lib Dems are up to 19 MPs compared with the 11 they were on when Jo Swinson became leader only two-and-a-half months ago. I wonder whether she might be joined in the coming days by some of the other ex-CON MPds who were booted out of the parliamentary party on the orders of Cummings/Johnson.

I’m asking the bookies to put up a market on what the size of the parliamentary LD party will be on Halloween.

Mike Smithson


The curious incident of the ERG at Christmas 2017

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

Johnson Tweet from December 2017

The dozy reaction to the Joint Report has misframed Brexit ever since

Why does a dog not bark when by rights you would expect it to? There are only two reasonable explanations: either it sees no reason to, or it’s been prevented from doing so. A guard dog might, for example, not raise the alarm if the burglar is well-known to it – though that’s not the only explanation, even if it is the most famous. It might be that the dog has been drugged, or muzzled, or removed from where it should be, or somehow otherwise distracted from that to which it should have been paying attention.

Far be it from me to compare Brexit to a burglary or the ERG to barking dogs but there is method in it. Brexit is in the mess it is for many reasons but one of the principle ones is that the government pursued a deal which fell grossly short of achieving anything like a majority in parliament – and that by the time it did fail, so many key players were so publicly committed to so many aspects of it that it cannot be meaningfully re-written.

How did it come to that? One overlooked aspect has to be the final negotiations around the production of the Joint Report in December 2017, which formed the basis of what would become the both the Chequers Plan and, ultimately, the Withdrawal Agreement. In retrospect, everything that the Commons objected to last Christmas was in the Report the year before – yet there was no barking? Why not?

It’s a question I find difficult to answer. Key individuals who would later turn extremely hostile were signed up to the Report. Steve Baker – now ERG Chairman and three-times rebel on the Withdrawal Agreement – was a minister in DExEU in December 2017 and happily let it sail through. Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary at the time, tweeted his congratulations on a deal that was “taking back control of our laws, money and borders for the whole of the UK”. In fact, in paragraphs 49 and 50 of the Report, it was perfectly obvious that Britain was signing up to indefinite alignment with the EU’s Single Market rules and Customs Unions tariffs and policies. How did the ERG miss this?


I can only offer two explanations, neither of which is very satisfactory. The first is that the DUP were satisfied with the Report, having made vocal objections in the days running up to the summit and secured changes in response to those objections. That produced the all-UK backstop rather than an NI-specific one. In paying too much attention to the DUP, the future Tory rebels presumably missed that the DUP’s objections were based on Unionism rather than Euroscepticism – hence why the DUP was happy to accept the all-UK backstop, which resolved their concern of an Irish Sea border.

The other explanation is simply that it was happening at Christmas and people were distracted. It’s easy for political commentators (or academics, journalists and so on), interested in a topic to assume that those making the decisions at the time were similarly overridingly concerned by it. Some perhaps were but MPs are busy people and have both political and social commitments beyond Brexit.

Whatever the reason, the Tory Eurosceptics’ failure to bark in December 2017 was a catastrophic silence. Both the then-PM and the EU must have taken from the lack of MPs’ hostility that there was the basis for a deal that could get through parliament. The elements in the Joint Report would be hard-coded into the process and produce the doomed Withdrawal Agreement, to which the EU is still strongly attached despite it clearly being all-but dead in the UK.

What might have been the alternative had they howled? It is of course impossible to give any definitive answer but there were two clear paths open, though both held many obstacles to success. The first would have been for May to have adopted a closer Brexit arrangement with the EU, with the open backing of Labour MPs. The second would have been to have charted the other side of the rocks upon which her Deal foundered, and done what Johnson has subsequently tried.

The problem with these different alternatives is that they might well not have worked either. May did try, in the aftermath of the third defeat of her Deal, to try to strike an arrangement with Labour and not only got nowhere with it but the process cost her her job. Perhaps there would have been more goodwill earlier in the parliament, or if she had tried to attract individual MPs rather than Labour as a party, but I’m still sceptical the numbers could have added up, or that she could have accepted policies which meant giving up the immigration controls so dear to her political heart.

On the other hand, had she immediately moved to the Brexiteer right to secure that flank, she would just have ended up in the same position that Johnson is in now, with no more guarantee of getting a deal than he has (and perhaps less, given that her Brexit team would have been temperamentally unsuited to such a position).

All the same, bringing matters to a head 12 months earlier, when there was still more than a year and a quarter to the Brexit deadline and when parties were not so publicly committed to draft agreements, would have given breathing space to readjust.

That, however, is history. What happens next?

The pretence that the EU will not re-open the Withdrawal Agreement has clearly now been dropped, though that doesn’t necessarily imply any change in its underlying negotiating position but Johnson’s proposals do cause the EU a tactical problem.

The European Council will be reluctant to reject the Johnson paper outright, both for the optics and for the consequences. Failure to reach an agreement will trigger the Benn Act’s provision to request an extension but in the absence of any basis for extension, what’s the point? The EU doesn’t want a hard Brexit and certainly doesn’t want to be responsible for one (or to risk being seen as such), so that implies it will do its best to offer an extension and, as such, will find a reason to do so. I suspect that the lateness of the delivery of the UK’s proposals and the vagueness of the language will give sufficient grounds to refer it ‘for technical analysis and further negotiations’, or some such process.

That would give Johnson a fig-leaf to cover the necessity of an extension – the lack of a rejection of his plan, painful though that may be to some in the EU – though it would clearly scupper any chance of an October 31 exit.

In reality, what the EU would be doing would be providing time for a UK general election, a change of government and a change of policy but obviously they couldn’t say that publicly. Such an election is clearly looming and a Brexit extension is the key to unlock the door to one. I’d expect it on either November 28 or December 5, with the latter the more likely.

I’d also anticipate a longer extension than the Benn Act provides for. There is an EU Council meeting scheduled for December but that’s too soon after an election to table papers, digest them and reach tentative agreements ahead of the summit. More likely is a timetable focussed around the March 2020 meeting, with perhaps a month or so to ratify any agreement reached, implying something like April 30 as the new deadline. Clearly, if Johnson is successful in the election, there’ll either be a No Deal outcome or a serious revisiting of the EU’s priorities. Alternatively, the process would be even more fundamentally reset.

This, of course, assumes no further dogs dozing on the job.

David Herdson


Punters rate Johnson’s chances of taking the UK out of the EU by the end of the month at 26%

Friday, October 4th, 2019

But read the detailed betting rules

The big Brexit betting market as seen above in the chart is whether Johnson will achieve his objective of an October 31st exit as per the Article 50 deadline.

Like in all political bets it is important to read Betfair’s  detailed rules of the market which in this case are:

For the purposes of this market leaving the EU is defined as the date when the treaties of the EU cease to apply to the UK. Examples of when this might occur include, but are not limited, to: the date specified in a withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU; the end of the negotiating period as set out by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (or any extension to this time period); or the date of the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act. If more than one of these events were to occur, this market will be settled on the first of these events to occur. In the case of Article 50 being extended past 31/10/19, via a unanimous vote by all EU Member States, we will settle this market based on the extended date. This market will settle when the UK leaves the EU even if parts of the UK (e.g. Scotland, Northern Ireland) leave the UK or receive special status within the EU.”

So if the Benn act became operative and the PM’s letter was sent and accepted then NO would be the winner. The critical element is whether “treaties of the EU cease to apply to the UK”.

A lot depends on the European Council and we’ll get a clearer idea after that meeting and the PM’s response.

My reading, and I stand to be corrected,  is that if an exit is agreed and a transitional period is put in place then the Treaties of the EU would still apply and NO should still win.

This is the current busiest UK political betting market and we can expect a lot of movement in the coming days.

Mike Smithson