Deal

After more than three years of attempts, Boris Johnson appears to have secured what Theresa May could not – an exit from the EU which is supported by Parliament. A majority of 30 supported the Withdrawal Agreement Bill; however, a more-slender majority of 14 voted down the PM’s expedited timetable to achieve this. What happens now? It seems likely that the EU will look favourably on the UK’s extension request and postpone the exit date (due on Halloween) to 31 January 2020. Meanwhile, Johnson has deferred progress to bring in the draft legislation, therefore leaving the UK at a risk of no-deal in the unlikely event that an extension is not granted. Progress will not be straightforward. Despite having won support in principle, Boris’s failure to push the deal over the line raises the prospect of the agreement being unpicked through a series of amendments. The reality is that he is still not in control of Parliament and so leads on this issue through the grace of the DUP, pro-Brexit Labour MPs and his own rebels. To be sure of the numbers he needs to get the Bill passed, the only real option is a general election. Again, this is not in his gift; but assuming the extension is granted, the pressure will pile on Labour to acquiesce. For those who like to place bets, the odds of still being in the EU on 1 November is now a secure 1/33; the safe bet is that we will leave at some point between then and the year end (5/4), and we will have a general election within the same timeframe (10/11). The important question is therefore who would win that general election. The bookies place strong likelihood on the Tories (2/7), and the polls agree, (35% to Labour’s 25%).