UK Politics: Could investigation into Arron Banks derail Brexit?

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Bettors think the UK will leave the EU in March
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The prominent Brexit campaigner is being investigated by the National Crime Agency but bettors aren't convinced that it'll affect the UK's exit from the EU next year, says Max Liu.

"On Sportsbook, the big news is that a no deal Brexit is now odds on for the first time, at 1/2."

The UK is odds-on at [1.52] to leave the European Union next March even though Arron Banks and his Leave.EU campaign are being investigated by the National Crime Agency for alleged offences in the build-up to the 2016 referendum.

What is Arron Banks accused of?

Banks, who cofounded Leave.EU in 2015 and has donated millions of pounds to Ukip, was this week referred to the NCA by the electoral commission which has been investigating the source of donations to Leave.EU for the past year. The commission says it has reasonable grounds to suspect that Banks was not the "true source" of £8m in funding.

Under UK law, donations to registered campaigners can only come from permissible sources and that excludes foreign funding. Banks is accused of taking donations from foreign sources and channelling their funds through his companies. There are also claims this morning that Banks lied to Parliament.

On Sunday, Banks appeared on the Andrew Marr show to say all of the money given to Leave.EU was within the law. Banks said there was no Russian money or interference of any type involved in Leave.EU's activities.

It was odd, seeing the subject of a criminal investigation given a tax-payer funded platform to defend himself, and the BBC is under fire for having Banks on the show. In a bizarre twist, Banks told Marr he would have voted Remain had he known how Brexit would turn out.

"Put Brexit on hold," say (some) Remainers

We're now into November, which is supposed to be the month of reckoning, and yet there is still considerable uncertainty about what Brexit will mean and no obvious sign of the UK and EU reaching a deal.

On Sportsbook, the big news is that a no deal Brexit is now odds-on for the first time, at 1/2. No wonder then that some Remainers - including the Labour MP David Lammy - are calling for the Brexit process to be halted pending the outcome of the NCA's investigation into Banks.

At the moment, bettors think that's wishful thinking and the markets have been unmoved by news of the NCA's investigation. That seems wise, as it's hard to see how anything other than the UK failing to reach a deal with the EU, or a deal being voted down by the UK parliament, can halt the process.

Labour and Lib Dem MPs say investigation boosts case for People's Vote

Labour and Lib Dem MPs say the NCA's investigation into Leave.EU funding boosts the case for a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal.

Labour's Catherine West says: "A Leave campaign that lied, cheated and broke electoral law should not be allowed to cause so much damage to this country. Brexit must be put on hold and we need a People's Vote."

West's views are shared by many in the cross-party People's Vote clique. Tony Blair also chips in today, urging Labour MPs to vote down whatever deal May makes with Brussels and push for a People's Vote. But again bettors are unmoved and the odds on a referendum on Brexit before 2020 are drifting at [4.0].

Do Labour leavers want a second referendum?

On the other hand, a survey this week showed a majority of people in Labour seats supporting a second referendum. The poll of 26,000 voters was commissioned by the People's Vote who want to persuade Labour MPs that, even in constituencies which voted Leave in 2016, there is support for a second referendum.

Across the country, the results make encouraging reading for Remainers. For example, in Birmingham Yardley, where 60% voted Leave in 2016, 63% support a public vote on the final deal. In Ashfield, which voted Leave, 53% want to return to the polling stations before Brexit.

The Labour constituency with the most support for a second referendum (80%) is Islington North. The MP there? Jeremy Corbyn. So you never know - Labour could still throw its weight behind a new vote.

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