This article first appeared at betting.betfair.com on Thursday 10th October. If we believe the media speculation, I may have underestimated a chance of Boris Johnson securing a Brexit deal. Nevertheless, even a deal would in my view only get through parliament now if a confirmatory referendum is attached. That eventuality lies behind the recommended bet on no Brexit before 2022.
Analysing the Brexit process over the last three years, and how a plethora of related betting markets would pan out, has been akin to betting on a game of chess in play. 3D chess at that. Three weeks out from the latest official date, the game appears at first glance to be as deadlocked as ever. In fact, Remainers may be about to make the winning move.
Another chaotic week in parliament ahead
Next week will be typically dramatic and doubtless bewildering for the average voter. Whilst Boris Johnson claims to be pursuing a last-minute deal, most observers don’t believe a word of it. His government will lay out a Queens Speech which the opposition describe as a farce and very few expect to pass. Then comes the all-important EU Council meeting on Thursday.
Parliament will sit next Saturday, in anticipation of a long-awaited showdown. If Johnson doesn’t have a deal secured, the Benn Act requires him to ask the EU for an extension. He remains adamant that he won’t, but also won’t break the law – a circle that can’t be squared.
I’ve argued for a while that Johnson wants this showdown to trigger a general election, framed as ‘parliament versus the people’. So far, his strategy has yielded a big poll lead and that might extend if opponents sack him, to be replaced by either the unpopular Jeremy Corbyn or a caretaker. But what if the opposition have other plans and don’t play along?
Referendum set to command majority
The emerging news it that a parliamentary majority can now be formed to support a <strong>confirmatory referendum</strong>. That looked plausible following the earlier round of indicative votes, and has since become official Labour policy. The gamechanger was Johnson sacking dozens of Tory MPs who had voted for the original Withdrawal Agreement but refuse to countenance a no deal Brexit. They now feel no compulsion to follow the Tory line.