UK Politics: Two years after the referendum and Brexit gets real

The European Union flag flies in the wind
100,000 marched through London waving the EU flag and calling for a people's vote
Join today

Two years on from the referendum that tore apart the UK, the reality of Brexit remains a mystery and the country is divided. Max Liu reports on the latest news and odds around the debate that isn't going away...

"On Betfair, a second referendum by 2020 is [3.5]. For those odds to narrow significantly, it would need the government to level with the country and be clear that Brexit is not in the UK's interests."

And so we reach the second anniversary of the UK's referendum on European Union membership. A lot has happened since June 23 2016, the day Britons voted 52-48 to leave the EU. A Prime Minister has resigned, another PM has come to power and lost her Parliamentary majority, while the Labour Party has gone from being derided as the worst opposition in modern British history to looking like a government in waiting.

At the same time, very little has changed since that fateful day two summers ago. Britain feels as divided, arguably more so, than it was then, and calls for a second referendum - whether as a straightforward rerun of the 2016 vote or on the terms of the Brexit deal - continue to be voiced. The UK government appears to be a long way from reaching an agreement with the EU negotiators and nobody, at least on this side of the Channel, has any real idea of what Brexit will look like.

Bettors still back Brexit by March 2019

Only one thing looks increasingly certain - deal or no deal, the UK is leaving the EU in March 2019, which is why the odds on that happening are [1.59]. If you think, the bettors have got that wrong, then now is the time to back Britain missing the deadline at [2.56].

It will take a dramatic change of direction for Theresa May to put the brakes on Brexit before next spring. This week, a poll by YouGov shows that two thirds of Britons - including more than half of Leave voters - think the government is doing a bad job of negotiating Brexit. On Sportsbook, the UK is evens to have reached no deal by the deadline.

100,000 march against Brexit

This weekend, around 100,000 Remain supporters took part in the People's Vote march down Whitehall. It was the largest public demonstration against Brexit yet, as people of various political stripes demanded a referendum on the terms of whatever deal the UK makes with Brussels.

The turnout was impressive, as was the breadth of the coalition. Members of every major political party marched side by side and figures from the left of UK politics, including Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas and gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, joined forces with voices from the centre-right, like Conservative MP Anna Soubry and former New Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

Business gets real about Brexit

The march was timed to mark the second anniversary of the 2016 referendum but it also coincided with stark warnings from businesses that put the potential cost of Brexit in real terms.

This week, Airbus, which employs 14,000 in the UK, warned that it will move its operations abroad if the UK exits the single market and customs union with no transition deal in place. BMW, which employs 8000 people in the UK, followed up by saying that they need clarity on Brexit.

For much of the past two years, Brexit has been discussed in fairly abstract terms. The type of warnings we've heard this week, though, leave nobody in any doubt: tens of thousands of jobs are at risk. And this is just the beginning.

Second referendum odds

As the reality of Brexit kicks in, will support grow for another referendum? The odds suggest another public vote is unlikely any time soon. On Betfair, a second referendum by 2020 is [3.5]. For those odds to narrow significantly, it would need the government to level with the country and be clear that Brexit is not in the UK's interests.

But the government continues to fudge and lie about Brexit. This week, the PM announced billions of extra-funding for the NHS which will be paid for, in part, she says by the "Brexit dividend." But there will be no Brexit divided. May knows this and so does everyone else. Welcome to Great Britain in 2018.

Join today

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles