Brexit Bulletin: Were You Up for Juncker?

(Bloomberg) -- Today in Brexit: May and Juncker have set out their stall. Will it be enough?

This was all in the script, wasn’t it? The last-minute dash, the high-stakes talks, the future of entire nations on the line.

And so Theresa May played her part, flying off to Strasbourg with time running out to deliver a mechanism, any mechanism, that could pass the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Brexit Bulletin: Were You Up for Juncker?

The issue at hand was the so-called “backstop,” an insurance policy designed to ensure there’s no hard border between Ireland (an EU member) and Northern Ireland (part of the U.K.) after Brexit. It’s proved toxic with May’s Conservative party and her Northern Irish allies, who fear it could permanently tie the U.K. to the EU.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker disagrees. “It is an insurance policy, nothing more,” he said, sitting next to Theresa May in Strasbourg. “It is not a trap.”

The upshot of Monday’s drama — you can catch up with it here — is a slew of official documents (links below) and a nervous wait for the prime minister to see how lawmakers back home react in the cold light of day. On Tuesday, the House of Commons will be asked to vote on the deal, backstop and all.

Will members of Parliament believe May and Juncker? Early indications were mixed. May set out to secure a time limit to the backstop and the unilateral right for Britain to leave. Instead she appeared to emerge with legalistic reassurances about arbitration mechanisms and “reducing the risk” of entrapment. If the vote fails the EU is prepared to delay Brexit by as much as a year, to March 2020, the Times reports.

Attention now turns to the supporting cast. The verdict of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, the attitude of the European Research Group of euroskeptic Conservative MPs, and the position of the DUP will all be crucial. Senior Brexiter MP Steve Baker certainly didn’t close the door. Nigel Farage did, but he is shouting from the sidelines on this one.

In many ways this is how politics always plays out. Principles on the (red) line, devil in the detail. As the American musical Hamilton puts it so succinctly, no one else is in the room where it happens.

Never fear, Brexit-fans. There’s sure to be another twist in the plot yet.

Today’s Must-Reads

Brexit in Brief

Sterling Gains | The pound surged on news of the U.K.-EU agreement, pushing past $1.32 and holding gains into the Asian trading day. “The situation is very fluid, but the market is perceiving hard-Brexit scenarios as increasingly unlikely,” said Vassili Serebriakov, a macro strategist at UBS Securities in New York. Sterling may end the day anywhere in a range of 10 percent given the gulf between possible outcomes to Tuesday’s Brexit vote, according to strategists.

Brexit Bulletin: Were You Up for Juncker?

‘Reject This Deal’ | Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not approve. “The prime minister’s negotiations have failed,” he said, adding that the documents do not contain “anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised Parliament.’’ Conclusion: “That’s why MPs must reject this deal.” Earlier, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told Bloomberg that defeat for May could lead to a confidence vote.

Real-Estate Slump | Investors cut or stopped purchases of commercial property in London this year as the Brexit negotiations lurched from crisis to crisis. Spending on U.K. offices, malls and warehouses plunged more than 40 percent in the first two months of the year, according to research firm Property Data. 

Still Coming | Brexit uncertainty isn’t stopping citizens from the EU’s poorest nations arriving in search of higher pay. Almost 40,000 people from Romania and Bulgaria moved to Britain on a net basis in the year through September 2018. 

Just Not Cricket | It was Brexit before wicket on BBC radio in the run-up to the big reveal. With tension mounting, 5Live listeners were forced to change channel to hear ex-England captain Michael Vaughan and spin bowler Phil Tufnell run the rule over the England one-day team. Perhaps the pair should have a crack at the backstop?

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