*This piece was first published last Friday, so I’ve updated the odds about an on-time Brexit, which have lengthened further since.
The chance of the UK leaving the EU on time, if at all, is falling fast if Betfair markets are a guide. Following a truly remarkable few days in parliament, it is now rated only 37% likely that Brexit be delivered on time – March 29, 2019 – at odds of 2.72. Brexit not happening before 2022 also shortened to 3.6 – equivalent to 28% likely.
Grieve amendment places Brexit in real doubt
Having been found in contempt of parliament for the first time ever, the government was forced release their legal advice on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Then, an amendment from Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve gave parliament the ability to broadly dictate the process if the withdrawal bill is defeated. At the time of editing this piece, news has just broken that the vote has been postponed in expectation of a massive defeat.
What next? In normal times, such a humiliating defeat would destroy a government and certainly a PM. However these are not normal times and it isn’t clear that rebel backbenchers are prepared to trigger a no confidence vote – currently rated a [2.4] chance to happen in 2018.
Labour will try to force an election and the odds about one in 2019 has come into 2.5. As argued a fortnight ago, this is a poor bet given the Tory divisions and fears of Jeremy Corbyn. Nor would it necessarily resolve the impasse.
No deal less likely but still possible
Much commentary has become dismissive of ‘No Deal’ now that parliament has gained control of the process. Today’s Telegraph report that the EU will allow May to extend the Article 50 deadline reinforces that and explains market moves against a timely Brexit.
A delay certainly looks likelier but could still be problematic and a deal – in the short or long-term – far from certain. As it stands, the UK will leave the EU by default next March. To change that will require a Conservative PM to act or parliament to force her hand. May has repeatedly promised there would be no extension and any such move will be toxic for her.