Is the Brexit end game finally here? Max Liu isn't convinced as he weighs up the latest odds on no deal, a general election this year and other fascinating possibilities...
"If the opposition are successful there’s always the chance that Brexit will drag on: July to December 2019 [1.67] leads the Brexit Date betting but we’ve learned to expect the unexpected and no Brexit before 2022 [4.7] is the second favourite – a sign that bettors think that the UK is either leaving the EU imminently or not at all."
A general election before Brexit is [1.96] on the Exchange, as MPs prepare to return to Westminster and challenge Boris Johnson over his decision to prorogue parliament for five weeks in September and October. The opposite outcome - Brexit to happen before a general election - is [2.02] and other markets reflect the same knife-edge scenario, with the UK [1.85] to leave the European Union by 31 October and [2.12] to miss that deadline.
Opposition alliance in race against clock
After more than three years of uncertainty, endless crunch talks and titanic power struggles, the expectation is that what we'll see in parliament this week is the real thing - the definitive Brexit showdown, as opposition MPs and some Tories try to stop Johnson.
A cross-party alliance will begin moves on Tuesday to table a bill mandating Johnson to ask Brussels to extend the UK's membership of the EU. Time is short as the government's opponents need to complete the bill's passage, including through the House of Lords, by the beginning of the following week before parliament is prorogued. Jeremy Corbyn is calling it "the last chance to stop no deal" which is currently [2.44].
Rebel Tories are real problem for PM
Ruthlessness is the main characteristic of the government, along with dishonesty and a few other tendencies usually associated with psychopathic dictatorships. They're playing a confidence trick, straight out of the Trumpian playbook, a willingness to do things that beggar belief coupled with the age old desire of all governments to be seen to be getting things done.
Not everything went to plan for the UK government this week, however, and the way the plans for parliament's prorogation was leaked showed that things aren't as water tight in Downing Street as Johnson would like.
On Friday, the chancellor Sajid Javid was furious that one of his advisers had been sacked by Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings, and escorted off the premises by armed police, allegedly for talking to her former boss Philip Hammond. Javid told Johnson Cummings was "out of control."
One month into his premiership, there's already a fissure between Johnson and his neighbour in number 11 Downing St. Meanwhile, up to 20 Tory MPs could be prepared to rebel over Brexit and how Johnson handles them could have a bearing on the outcome of the next general election. The likes of David Gauke have been threatened that if they vote against the government on Brexit they will be deselected before the next general election. They could, however, stand as independent candidates and potentially rob the Tories of seats.
Hammond remains an influential figure on the Remain side of the party and surely spoke for many colleagues when he tweeted:
If true, this would be staggeringly hypocritical: 8 members of the current cabinet have defied the party whip this year.? Philip Hammond (@PhilipHammondUK) August 31, 2019
I want to honour our 2017 manifesto which promised a "smooth and orderly" exit and a "deep and special partnership" with the EU.
Not an undemocratic No Deal. https://t.co/045od2lsvD
The Tories are [1.38] to win most seats - a ludicrously short price - at the next general election, whenever it is, and [2.7] (ditto) to win a majority. But like other Tory PMs before him, Johnson is about to learn that it could be his enemies within his party, as well as his official opposition, that bring him down. That's why on Monday, ahead of facing MPs in parliament, he will meet with Gauke and others in an attempt to win their support. The outcome of that meeting could be crucial, especially if, as bettors expect, the government faces a no confidence vote [1.51].
The week when all will be decided?
This is expected to be the week when Britain's future becomes much clearer. We should know much more in seven days about Brexit than we do now. Then again, we might not.
If the government's opponents are successful in the Commons this week then there's always the chance that Brexit will drag on: July to December 2019 [1.67] leads the Brexit Date betting but we've learned to expect the unexpected and no Brexit before 2022 [4.7] is the second favourite - a sign that bettors think that the UK is either leaving the EU imminently or not at all.
In a situation where, as the New Statesman's Stephen Bush put it this week, "all the possibilities are unlikely," there's a chance you could make a merry profit by backing no Brexit before 2022 along with Article 50 to be revoked at [4.0]. The latter has been described as "the nuclear option" but then they're all nuclear options.