UK Politics: Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron are both in the merde

Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May
Both Macron and May face big problems

The UK Prime Minister is reported to be considering calling off Tuesday's Brexit vote, as she tries to avoid defeat. Meanwhile, her French counterpart also faces big problems, says Max Liu.

"At the end of an historic week for UK politics, when the government was found to be in contempt of Parliament for the first time ever, the UK is 1.695/7 (that's a 59% chance) on the Exchange to still be in the European Union after the 29 March 2019 Brexit deadline."

At the end of an historic week for UK politics, when the government was found to be in contempt of Parliament for the first time ever, the UK is 1.695/7 (that's a 59% chance) on the Exchange to still be in the European Union after the 29 March 2019 Brexit deadline.

The shift in the odds, which coincides with events in Parliament that make Brexit look less likely than ever, indicates that bettors' faith in Britain leaving the EU in the spring is dwindling rapidly. The odds on Britain still being in the EU by 2022 are 3.55.

May to call off Tuesday's vote and go back to Brussels?

Theresa May's Brexit deal now trading at 1.11/10 on the Exchange not to pass through the Commons on Tuesday and there are reports today that Prime Minister will delay the vote, as she attempts to avoid a humiliating defeat.

Betfair have opened a market: How many MPs will vote 'Aye' on the Brexit deal? At the time of writing, 199 or less is the 3.8514/5 favourite. That's out of 650 MPs so the scale of the defeat could be massive and threaten to bring down May's government.

According to the Sunday Times, May will announce on Monday that the vote is off and she's going back to Brussels to demand from EU negotiators a better Brexit deal for the UK. The move is designed to rally support for May, among MPs, and the public.

Dashing off to fight for Britain against the dastardly EU would be a desperate move from May and it's difficult to see what it would achieve. Arguably, such futile gestures helped to get us into this mess in the first place: in early 2016, David Cameron embarked on a doomed tour of the EU27, as he tried (or pretended to try) to get Britain more control over immigration. But the EU wouldn't budge, Cameron called the referendum and the rest is chaos.

May knows she'll face the full force of EU stubbornness if she goes back to Brussels this week, as the likes of European Council President Donald Tusk have said repeatedly that the current deal is the only one on the negotiating table.

Is the end of May nigh?

Tory MP Esther McVey, who resigned from Cabinet over the PM's Brexit deal, said on Sunday that, if May fails to negotiate a better deal, then the PM could be finished.

May is 1.412/5 to leave before Brexit and, as it looks increasingly possible that Brexit will never happen, those odds make sense. The price on the PM facing a vote of no confidence this year has shortened to 2.1211/10 (a 47% chance).

Second Referendum looks like the only option

While the PM faces peril in Parliament, support for a second referendum is growing in the country, according to YouGov's Peter Kelner. This is reflected on Exchange where another public vote on Brexit is 2.285/4 (44% likely) to happen before 2020. That's the shortest price I'd take on something that looks more inevitable, as Paul Krishnamurty has argued, by the day.

The outcome of that referendum remains difficult to predict, although if pushed I'd say that Britons would vote to stay in the EU. Kelner argued on Sunday that the vast majority of voters haven't changed their position since the 2016 referendum. However, he added: "Time moves on. Since the referendum 1.5 million old people have died and 1.5m young people have reached voting age."

Meanwhile, in France...

Amid the madness of Brexit, it's easy to forget that other European countries face domestic political problems of their own.

President Macron of France has cropped up several times in Brexit talk recently, after he insisted French fisherman would need access to Britain's waters, and joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in saying there's no alternative to the current deal.

But Macron is facing enormous opposition at home. This weekend, the latest "gilets jaunes protests" left 71 people injured in Paris and more than 1200 were arrested around the country.

The protests, which are the biggest France has seen since 1968, are designed to thwart Macron's plans to raise fuel tax. Macron's approval rating, which was already low before the protests, has plummeted, while the left-wing Jean-Luc Melenchon, who stood against Macron in 2017, is opening up a lead over France's other party leaders.

Is Macron, who was until recently heralded as the centrist saviour of Europe, going to follow his old boss Francois Hollande in being a one-term French president? The next French election is in 2022, and between now and then much could change, but the signs do not look good for Macron.

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