Politics Odds: UK 5/1 to rejoin EU by 2026 as Brexit bites

  • Max Liu
  • 5:00 min read
Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer
Brexit poses questions for both Johnson and Starmer

In this week's UK politics update Max Liu looks at the betting on the UK rejoining the EU by 2026 and says the problem of Brexit isn't going away for the Conservatives or Labour...

"Five years is a long time – think how much has happened in UK politics since 2016 – and the market on the UK rejoining by 2026 is worth watching."

The UK is 5/1 to rejoin the European Union amid growing concerns that the Brexit trade deal has left the country poorer and less secure.

So far the government has played down claims from businesses and fisherman that the deal has damaged their exports and ignored concerns from the valuable performing arts sector.

But this week a group of Conservatives said the deal had left the UK "less safe and less secure" and called for Boris Johnson to reopen talks with the EU about security co-operation.

Dominic Grieve and David Lidington, a former attorney general and de facto deputy prime minister respectively, lead the calls. They both voted Remain and were vocal critics of the government's handling of Brexit, so you might conclude that it's a case of the usual Remainer suspects trying to scupper the outcome.

On the other hand, as the reality of Brexit bites it could be that this is a taste of things to come. It was obvious from 2017 onwards how complicated it would be for a British government to deliver the outcome of the 2016 referendum, but until now Brexit supporters couldn't be certain of what it would mean in real terms.


Brexit has divided Britain but, as the impact is registered in everyday lives - whether that means job losses, difficulties travelling or working abroad - it's not out of the question that we could see a collective desire to rejoin the EU.

It might fall to a new generation of politicians, in both main parties, to have the honest conversation about Brexit that's so far failed to materialise. Getting that done in time for 2026 looks tight. But five years is a long time - think how much has happened in UK politics since 2016 - and the market on the UK rejoining is worth watching.

Starmer under fire on Brexit and Hancock

"Blue on blue psychodrama" was how David Cameron summed up the way Brexit managed to pit Tory MPS against each other. But it ended up causing mayhem on the red benches too and was a significant factor in Labour's election defeat in 2019.

Even so, the shortcomings of the Brexit trade deal presented Labour with an opportunity to become the party of business - something New Labour succeeded in prior to winning power in 1997. But Keir Starmer has told his MPs to keep quiet about Brexit, according to reports this weekend.

The Labour leader is convinced that his party can't criticise Brexit if the party is to have any hope of winning back the seats in the midlands and north of England that they lost to the Tories at the last general election. But for how long is that sustainable when the problems caused by Brexit become ever more apparent?

Starmer is so reluctant to criticise the government that today he declined to call for Matt Hancock to resign after the High Court ruled that the government had acted unlawfully by not publishing COVID-19 procurement contracts.

Matt Hancock 956.jpg

The Labour leader prompted fury among his party's supporters with his claim that "calling for people to resign is not what the public really want to see." At such moments, it's tempting to wonder if Starmer will become the first leader of the opposition since Iain Duncan Smith to leave the job before fighting a general election.

It's difficult to gauge how the fall-out from pandemic will affect the government's long-term popularity. That's difficult to predict, as the vaccine roll-out could yet mean the Tories win a majority 3.1511/5 at the next general election, or the mooted public inquiry into the government's pandemic response could prove devastating.

But perhaps Brexit will be the biggest factor at the next election - 1.384/11 to be in 2024 - just as it was at the last. It's not going away and will continue to cause problems for both main parties. It remains to be seen which will suffer most and whether anyone will have the guts to advocate reversing it.

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