Brexit Bulletin: The Road to Another Referendum

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A new poll suggests the British public wants another referendum before leaving the European Union. But the result raises more questions than it answers.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by the anti-Brexit group Best for Britain, showed that 44 percent of those polled said there should be a vote on the exit terms, compared with 36 percent who said there shouldn’t be one. The poll had the advantage of asking a very specific question: should the public have a final say on whether Britain accepts the deal or remains in the EU. Other polls have been vaguer about what the alternative to accepting the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May brings back from Brussels would be.

Such a question would prompt howls of outrage from the most dedicated Brexit-backers, who don’t much like the look of the deal as it’s shaping up. The agreement so far involves paying a £40 billion ($56 billion) divorce bill, accepting free movement and EU rules for another two years after Brexit and losing membership of the single market. It’s worth remembering that by the time of any vote, the future trade deal won’t have been hashed out in any great detail and instead there will be a vague commitment to what might come next.

Brexit Bulletin: The Road to Another Referendum

So the debate about what the question should be in any second referendum is far from settled, even if it’s hard to imagine an alternative question. While Brexit supporters would want the question to be this deal or no deal, surely no government would dare give voters the opportunity to choose to leave the EU without a deal and run the risk they might just go for it. The YouGov poll showed 44 percent would vote to remain compared with 41 percent who would opt to leave, but pollsters are generally skeptical that people have really changed their minds since the vote in June 2016.

And how would a referendum come about anyway? Parliament would have to vote for it. Anti-Brexit campaigners are focusing on the autumn, when May hopes to bring the deal back from Brussels and has promised to put it to Parliament for a vote. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it vote between the agreement reached and no deal, the government says. May has been adamant there won’t be a second referendum. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also doesn’t support one, though he hasn’t ruled it out.

Anti-Brexit members of parliament from both sides have other ideas, though, and are already working on strategies to try to force another plebiscite. The EU has indicated it would be keen and keeps telling Britain it would have her back.

In case you missed it, here’s our look ahead at what the next few months might hold for May as she navigates Brexit.

Brexit Latest

May on Tour | May will meet her Danish and Swedish counterparts on Monday in a tour of Scandinavian capitals to discuss Brexit and Russia. She’s back from a walking holiday in Wales, while Parliament remains in recess. Meanwhile, negotiators meet in Brussels to discuss the Irish border issue.

New Party? | The Observer reported on Sunday that a new centrist party is in the works, with £50 million of funding. But it’s been met with much skepticism. YouGov’s Anthony Wells sums it up: “Public opinion tends to the left on economics, and is quite right-wing on more cultural issues like immigration and crime. There may well be a gap for a political party putting forward that combination of views, but it doesn’t seem to be the same gap that most of the proposed centrist parties are seeking to fill.”

Barclays Split | Barclays is set to split its euro rates trading team because of Brexit, the Financial Times reports. It will move part of the unit that trades euro-zone government bonds and interest-rate swaps away from its main trading floor in London but still hasn’t decided where.

Something Else to Worry About | Weak growth has replaced Brexit as the top risk facing U.K. companies, according to a survey of Chief Financial Officers. The transition deal has boosted business optimism, while concerns about the effects of leaving the EU on hiring and spending have receded, Deloitte said in a report on Monday, citing a survey of 106 CFOs carried out March 7-21. 

Lego in London | The fund that manages the wealth of the Lego billionaires wants to buy more London real estate. Undeterred by Brexit, the $16 billion Kirkbi A/S fund bought the Porter’s Wharf office property in London’s King’s Cross district earlier this year, its third real-estate investment in London. “Some investors, including us, are a bit nervous about the development in the U.K.,” Soren Thorup Sorensen, Kirkbi’s chief executive officer, told Bloomberg. “But there are areas in London that aren’t linked to the financial sector.”

And Finally...

The fight over blue passports, and whether a foreign firm should produce the little books that Brexit-backers see as a symbol of liberation, continues. The Telegraph reports that De La Rue has hired law firm Slaughter and May to help it fight the government’s decision to award the contract to Franco-Dutch rival Gemalto.

Brexit Bulletin: The Road to Another Referendum

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To contact the author of this story: Emma Ross-Thomas in London at erossthomas@bloomberg.net.

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