For a long old time, you couldn’t even get a price on a second Brexit referendum even if you wanted to.
It was taken as read that the UK would be leaving the EU, and so the bookies wouldn’t even lay the possibility of the opposite happening.
But with the government continuing to make a pig’s ear of the divorce deal negotiations, and the threat of a No Deal agreement striking fear into the UK economy, the possibility of a second referendum – as undemocratic as it is – refuses to go away.
The bookmakers have acted accordingly, pricing up a market that has ‘Second Referendum – No’ as a 4/6 favourite, with a second vote as short as 11/10 in places.
As we know, the bookies offer an excellent guide as to the mood of the nation, and their odds suggest a new vote is not as unlikely as it sounds.
Case for a ‘People’s Vote’ Gathers Momentum
When you do the maths, you note that the 11/10 offered by William Hill on a second referendum is an implied probability of 47.6%, or in layman’s terms the possibility of a so-called People’s Vote is now pretty much a toss of a coin.
“The deal looks dead in the water and we believe that Theresa only has a couple of options open to her,” said the firm’s official spokesman, Rupert Adams. “The first would be to revoke Article 50, the second is to have another referendum and we believe the second will be the more palatable option.”
Revoking Article 50 would basically reverse the whole Brexit process, with the UK staying in the EU and Theresa May having to apologise to everyone involved with the nation’s tail between her leg. That, surely, will not happen.
The Sunday Times reported recently that David Lidington, who is one of the Prime Minister’s most trusted advisors, had met with Labour MPs to establish a consensus on a second vote.
However, it remains to be seen whether the option to stay in the EU will be offered to voters; more likely it will be a ballot of the Prime Minister’s proposed deal and the choice to leave the Union without any kind of deal whatsoever.
All Eyes on January’s Ministers Vote
One of the most senior Conservative MPs, Amber Rudd, appeared on the Peston show on Wednesday to confirm that a second referendum had a ‘plausible argument’ for it.
“Parliament has to reach a majority on how it’s going to leave the European Union,” she said. “If it fails to do so, then I can see the argument for taking it back to the people again, much as it would distress many of my colleagues.”
And so all eyes will be on the meaningful vote in January, where parliament will have their say on the terms of Theresa May’s proposed divorce plans.
If they like what they hear, the Brexit bill will pass the vote and the UK will leave the EU as planned beginning from the end of March.
If the result of the meaningful vote is that ministers want to wrestle control of Brexit away from the PM, that’s when a second referendum becomes even more likely.
It could be a fraught new year for May and her supporters!