What are the odds of a new EU referendum and a no deal Brexit?

The UK is set to leave the EU in little over a year’s time, but what do the betting markets say about a new referendum?

On the 23rd June 2016, a slim majority of voters backed the UK’s exit from the European Union. Almost two years later, the UK remains in the Union, but is edging closer to the halfway point in negotiations. In just over a year’s time, the UK will likely be outside the European Union.

However, the UK’s vote to leave and the fact that Article 50 has been triggered have not stopped the anti-Brexit movement in the UK. The Liberal Democrats went into last year’s general election backing a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal – with the option to remain in the union – and the Guardian has reported that several anti-Brexit groups have team up to fight for a new referendum.

That all said, a referendum on the eventual deal is unlikely. With the vast majority of Tory MPs in favour of delivering the “will of the British people” and the DUP by their side, as well as the Labour leadership's acceptance that Brexit is happening, there is little to no parliamentary support for a new referendum.

Furthermore, while the government’s majority with the DUP is slim, a fresh election in the year before March 2019 looks significantly unlikely so even if pro-EU force - such as new party Renew - rose in the polls, the opportunity to transform that into electoral success would probably not take place.

The best hope for those wanting a second referendum is for the Labour leadership to change its tune.

But what do the betting markets say?

Ladbrokes offer odds of 5/1 for a new EU referendum before the end of 2019 (as of 22nd February). This suggests a new vote is unlikely, but the betting markets, while often said to be more reliable than polls, have been wrong in the past. Jeremy Corbyn was a 500/1 outsider in 2015 while Trump had similar odds to win the Republican nomination the year later.

2. Replacing the House of Lords

There is so much wrong with Britain’s upper-chamber. It is bloated to the extent that it is one of the largest legislative chambers in the world, and it is not in the slightest bit democratic. On top of that, the fact that there are still a significant number of hereditary peers is frankly an embarrassment to our so-called democracy.

But what’s the solution? Another elected chamber is one option – provided both have fair voting systems – but this would result in constant battles between the two. An alternative is the system used in Germany, which recognises individual parts of the UK and gives them power over UK-wide issues. With devolution now ingrained into British politics, this is an interesting solution to turn the Lords into something much better. Germany’s Bundesrat is made up of representatives from all sixteen states, with voting power varying slightly by population sizes. This is similar to the American Senate, where different states are recognised, but does so in a way that let’s sub-UK governments be heard.

3. A Written Constitution

The UK’s lack of a written codified constitution and reliance on precedence and tradition sets us apart from most of the rest of the world. Having a written constitution would set out clear rules regarding the powers of different levels of governments, the rights of British citizens, and most relevant for the current situation set out rules regarding referendums.

Referendums in the UK historically take place out of political necessity but look at Ireland. Amendments to the Irish constitution can only occur if voted for in a referendum. A written constitution that outlines such procedures like Ireland does will provide a much-needed framework for such democratic decisions while also protecting the rights of individuals and different levels of governance.

4. A Federal Britain

Federalism has long been called for in the UK, but little has been done to initiate it. The Liberal Democrats have long backed it while elements of Labour have shifted in that direction. A Federal Britain, in which powers are brought closer to the people, will loosen Westminster’s tight grip on the country and end the remnants of the one-size fits all approach from the time before devolution.

The main problem with this however, is England. Should England be regionalised, or should it remain one large entity within the framework of a federal Britain? That’s a question for a constitutional convention and a likely series of referendums.

Either way the people should have their say.

5. Improved Political Education

Education is the key to advancing individuals in society and advancing society itself.

Specifically, substantial, obligatory and non-biased political education is long overdue. If people are to be informed for elections, they need to understand how the system works, who the main political players are and the importance of voting in the first place.

The key to a healthy democracy is a knowledgeable population. Political education in schools is a much-needed solution to our ill democracy.

6. Automatic Voter Registration

One barrier to voting in the first place is the fact that individuals must register ahead of polling day. Generally, this is a simple procedure that takes a few minutes, however, that’s not the point. Individuals should have an automatic link with the political system via being able to vote from the get-go.

Automatic registration takes place in other countries, why not here?

Let’s make voting easy.

7. Compulsory Voting…For First-Time Voters

Many individuals, including myself, are very vary of making voting compulsory. The freedom not to vote is an important freedom and people should vote for the sake of it.

However, the proposal for first-time compulsory voting is a compromise that could set voters on a path to consistent engagement as there is strong evidence that voting is habitual, meaning that once individuals start they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives. Perhaps it would be worth piloting this to see its impact.

The proposal also offers odds of 7/2 for the UK to still be a full EU member on 1st January 2020. This could happen if the UK votes to stay in the EU or if all member states agree to extend Article 50’s negotiating period.

What about no deal being reached by April 2019? The odds of this are 11/8, suggesting that its reasonably likely that the UK could leave the EU on WTO terms.

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