Stock Market News: London’s view of Brexit
I have rung a few of my UK contacts overnight and here are some British views on what is going in the UK:
- Theresa May won out over Jeremy Corben’s no-confidence vote in the UK – it was wholly expected. Brexit is not about politics, it is about the UK extracting themselves from the clutches of unelected overpaid European officials. Corben has used the Brexit uncertainty to try and force a general election, it hasn’t worked and the ploy has been aptly met with the accusation that he is engaged in “shameless political opportunism”. The Conservatives are still 8% ahead in the latest opinion polls. No Tory rebels voting against the Brexit deal want a change of government, especially not if it means handing power to Labour and Corben. Look beyond the politics – Theresa May is unelected but if she pulls this off, one day, she may make it as an elected Prime Minister.
- The UK has lost faith in its politicians, but has even less faith in the overpaid bureaucrats setting policy in Europe.
- Another referendum is not the solution. If there was another referendum it could very easily go the same way. The Brits still want out of the EU. Those that are fearful about what it means next month are missing the point. Those that are scaremongering about 10,000 trucks a day full of perishable goods (food and medicines) queueing 80 miles from Dover to London to get through customs and into Europe are focused on the short term uncertainty. The issue is not what confusion it causes now but whether the UK should be in the EU long-term and the majority still say no.
- The UK is the fifth or sixth biggest economy in the world (depending on how California is going) – it does €130 billion worth of trade with the rest of Europe every year. Even if there is a no-deal Brexit the UK is a powerful trading partner with the EU and the EU, rather than dictating to the UK, will have to be careful that they don’t upset the UK. A “free trade” outcome between the UK and the EU, if negotiated, might actually disadvantage the UK. They may ultimately do better in GDP terms negotiating trade deals from outside the EU than inside the EU. The US, China, even Australia will be more than happy to deal with a UK that is out from under the skirts of the EU bureaucracy.
- The British economy, whilst it isn’t booming, has outperformed the worst expectations and the doomsday economic scenarios put forward after the Brexit referendum. Meanwhile Germany is headed for a recession, France is in flames and other European economies are moving hard right. It is not an attractive coat tail to be on politically or economically.
- The UK is one of the 10 EU countries that contribute more to the EU budget than it gets, €8 billion more. Italy, Greece and Portugal need the EU, to porop them up. The UK is doing the propping up. It is not a direct beneficiary of the EU financially. Economically the UK doesn’t need to be in the EU, the EU is not subsidising the UK, it is the opposite, the UK is subsidising 18 other economies. It is very capable of standing alone. In the long term the UK GDP trend is not dependent on being in the EU. It might actually be stifled by it.
- The fact that they can’t reach a deal on Brexit is not a reflection of a desire to stay, it is a reflection of the British refusing to bend over to Europe. They don’t want to stay, they want out but on their terms. Yes it is complicated, yes there is a lot of uncertainty about what it all means, but it is necessary to go through this very complex re-negotiation, this is the cracking of the eggs as they make the omelette.
- A lot is being made of a “no deal” Brexit but it is more brinkmanship than reality. The possibility is being used as a negotiating ploy – to horrify, to sell newspapers, to whip up support, for political gain. But it is unlikely.
- The most likely outcome, possible in the next couple of weeks, is that Theresa May will facilitate a Brexit deal acceptable to Parliament and, if they can get the EU to agree it, they will exit on a “deal” Brexit on March 29 and have two years to transition out. It will be business pretty much as usual. The EU don’t want a hard Brexit either. If they see the glimmer of progress and a deal possible, they will extend the timetable a few months and it will be done. There is not a lot that needs to happen before March 29 to allow the extension – just some gesture of willingness on both sides.
- The markets – Weakness in sterling, weakness in the UK stock market is a buying opportunity. Timing it is the trick. We are very likely close to a low in UK economic sentiment. A “no deal” Brexit if it happens is a risk you wouldn’t take but the moment they move to a “deal” Brexit, you buy the pound and you buy Australian stocks exposed to the UK that have been hurt by this uncertainty. PDL, ARB, IRE, CYB, URW, MQG. JHG is probably the “Trade de Brexit”.
What now – Ironically the heavy defeat of Plan A has been taken as a positive because it will push the issue out and maybe the two sides can agree on a better deal now the ramifications are clearer. Theresa May has invited other parties to the table to try to agree on a Plan B. The likely scenario is that if a deal looks possible the EU allows the UK to extend the Article 50 deadline at March end – but they can only do that for a few months. The EU history is to constantly push the can down the road. ‘Extend and pretend’ has been their mantra. After the breathing space is allowed the EU has to make some serious concessions and the UK has to get its act together to prevent a hard Brexit ultimately.
There is a new term on business TV. “BRINO”. May hear more of this in coming months. ‘Brexit in name only’. Brexit Lite – they Brexit but they agree that nothing changes.