Brexit

The Brexit deadline has been pushed back to 31 October, but uncertainty still looms. Find out what you need to know, including what might happen next and how the final outcome could affect the markets.


What is Brexit and what opportunities does it offer traders?

A simple Brexit definition is that it is a contraction of ‘British exit’, and it is a word used to define the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU. So far, the withdrawal process has caused widespread market uncertainty, creating opportunities for profit. With CFDs, you can speculate on markets rising as well as falling – meaning you have a wider scope to take advantage of the volatility surrounding Brexit.

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How will the uncertainty surrounding Brexit affect the markets?

The fallout of the past few weeks of votes and debates has already had an effect on the markets. The pound spiked against the euro and the dollar after the vote to rule out no deal on 13 March – having initially slumped following the second defeat of the prime minister’s deal. Meanwhile, the euro fell against the dollar after EU leaders agreed to extend article 50 until 12 April.

Now the departure date has been extended, but the prime minister’s deal has been defeated once more, uncertainty will likely return to the markets. This is because it remains to be seen whether a final withdrawal deal is possible. At this point, a solution is dependent on the coming days and weeks of debate between Theresa May, British lawmakers and European leaders.

We could see the price movements of currency pairs stagnate if nothing new is agreed between the respective parties. But, if a deal was to be secured in the immediate future – whatever form it might take – British and European indices and stocks could react favourably.

What's next for Brexit?

There will be another series of indicative votes on Monday 1 April to follow those that took place on Wednesday 27 March. These votes could perhaps highlight more clearly what course of action British legislators would prefer – especially now that the prime minister’s deal has been defeated in a third vote.

Whatever the final outcome, a decision will have to be made by 12 April, which stands as the legal deadline for the UK leaving the EU. If this date arrives with no solution for progression in place, the UK could very well leave without a deal.



Markets to watch during Brexit

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Prices above are subject to our website terms and conditions. Prices are indicative only. All shares prices are delayed by at least 15 mins.

Commodities

As ever in times of uncertainty, investors look to commodities such as gold. After experiencing a spike following the initial referendum in June 2016, gold’s price has largely settled over the last few years. That is not to say that it couldn’t spike again, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the next steps for the UK’s departure.

Shares

The effect on shares since the Brexit referendum has been mixed. Some companies have benefitted from a weaker pound and improved economic outlook, and others have struggled. For the most part, the FTSE 100 has been volatile since June 2016, with the effects of Brexit as far as individual securities are concerned quite varied.

Forex

Sterling fell against the euro after the referendum result was announced. However, the EUR/GBP pair maintained a steady rate of between lows of 0.87 and highs of 0.90 from December 2017 to the beginning of January 2019. Immediately following the defeat of the government’s departure agreement on 15 January, the pound entered a strong recovery. What will happen in the coming days and weeks remains to be seen, making EUR/GBP a key pair to watch.

Indices

The FTSE 100 and FTSE Mid 250 both rose over the course of 2017, thanks to weak sterling performance and an improving UK economy. However, in 2018 both were volatile as a result of sell-offs on global equity markets, and the increasing uncertainty surrounding Brexit negotiations and the proposed deal. The trading relationship with Europe is critical to many firms’ future earnings, so indices are very likely to be affected by the final outcome of Brexit, whatever that might be.

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Brexit: what are the options?

Time is running out for the prime minister to secure a deal, though several options remain on the table

Indicative votes

The eight indicative votes that were held on 27 March highlighted MP’s favoured options for Brexit. While none was able to get an outright majority, the three most popular were a confirmatory referendum, leaving the EU but retaining membership of the customs union, and Labour’s alternative plan (which only one Conservative legislator voted for). The votes with the most cross-party support were common market 2.0, a confirmatory referendum, leaving the EU with customs union membership, and revocation to avoid no deal. Since no vote got a majority, there will be another round of indicative votes on Monday 1 April.

Extending article 50

An extension to article 50 would allow more time for a final deal to be negotiated and tweaked to give it the best chance of assent in the Commons. However, any extension to article 50 requires unanimous approval by the remaining 27 EU members states – meaning that it has become a powerful political bargaining chip.

Revoking article 50

Another option as far as article 50 is concerned is for the UK to revoke it. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the UK can do this unilaterally, meaning that the decision to do so remains entirely at the UK’s discretion.

Fourth vote on the prime minister’s deal

Although it has already been defeated three times, Theresa May could bring her deal back for a fourth vote at some point in the future. Whether another vote on her deal will take place depends on how different the deal is to its three failed predecessors; and its success will depend on whether Labour, the DUP, and the prime minister’s own Eurosceptic MPs will back it.

Third vote on the prime minister’s deal

After two already-humiliating defeats, Theresa May is ready to try for a third time to get her deal through the house. This third meaningful vote is expected in the week beginning 18 March.

This third vote has been suggested in light of European leaders’ sentiments that there is no more room for negotiation, and that May’s deal is the only agreement on the table at this stage. With 29 March still set as the default departure date, it remains to be seen whether a third vote on the prime minister’s deal will yield more fruitful results than its two predecessors.

No-deal departure

While MPs have voted to reject no deal, the result is not legally binding on the EU. This means that no deal remains the legal default, with European Commission members making clear that it will remain on the table unless an agreement is reached.

What is clear from the result of the vote on 13 March is that no deal is regarded by a majority of MPs as an unattractive option since it could be extremely detrimental to British businesses.

Delaying or revoking article 50

Now that MPs have decided that they want to avoid a no-deal departure, another vote will be held on 14 March. This vote will ask MPs if they want to ‘seek a limited extension to article 50’. If passed, Theresa May will have to return to the EU to request that they bring forward the necessary legislation in order to change the current departure date from 29 March.

Another option as far as article 50 is concerned is for the UK to revoke it. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the UK can do this without the consent of other EU nations, meaning that the decision to do so remains entirely at the UK’s discretion.


When will Brexit happen?

The current Brexit deadline is 31 October 2019, but the UK might be allowed to leave earlier than this date, so long as the withdrawal agreement is ratified by the Commons.


What's happened in the Brexit timeline so far?

Brexit referendum is held - June 2016

The referendum held in 2016 saw over 30 million people turn up to vote. The split was 51.9% in favour to leave, 48.1% in favour of remain.

There was a significant regional variation in the vote: London, Scotland and Northern Ireland all backed remain, while England and Wales opted to leave, with 53.4% and 52.5% of the vote respectively. All in all, the vote revealed a deeply divided Britain: a fact which defined the following months of negotiations, challenges and reprisals.

The result took the government by surprise. David Cameron resigned from number 10, and was replaced by Theresa May following a leadership contest within the Conservative Party. She confirmed that the UK would leave the EU with her famous ‘Brexit means Brexit’ soundbite, despite being in favour of remain before the result was announced.

Article 50 is triggered - March 2017

Article 50 was triggered on 29 March 2017, starting the official two-year countdown to Brexit. What followed was a period of planning by EU and UK negotiators, lasting until June 2017 when negotiations began. In the interim, Theresa May called a snap election, hoping to boost the Tory’s parliamentary majority and strengthen the government’s bargaining power with EU leaders.

The plan backfired spectacularly, as the Conservatives lost their majority and were forced to form a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Some argue this has weakened the government’s position considerably, as ratification of the final deal will require the backing of the DUP in parliament.

Brexit negotiations begin - June 2017

Negotiations officially began on 19 June 2017, with the UK accepting a phased negotiation timeline suggested by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. Phase one concluded in December 2017, with agreements in place regarding a financial settlement of between £35-39 billion, a soft Irish border, as well as the rights of UK and EU citizens living cross-border.

Phase two ran until mid-November 2018 and focused on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. As part of this phase of negotiations, a transition period of 21 months was provisionally agreed, which is scheduled to start immediately after the leave date. This will give time for the UK to negotiate its future trading relationship with the EU.

The Chequers deal is published - June 2018

The ‘Chequers plan’ – published on 12 July 2018 – was one of the most substantial and most complete plans for Britain’s exit from the EU at the time. It set out the relationship that the UK would seek with the EU following its departure from the union.

Although being approved by the British cabinet, the plan was rejected by the EU, with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, citing that the integrity of the EU single market is not negotiable and that the UK cannot ‘cherry pick’ the parts of the single market it likes. The single market is reliant on ‘four freedoms’: the free movement of goods, people, services and capital. The Chequers agreement only made concessions for the free movement of goods, which prompted Barnier’s comments.

The major sticking point was how the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland would work in practice, particularly if the two sides were unable to agree a workable trade deal during the transition phase. This is because the EU is unable to accept a soft border with a country that has different customs arrangements.

In November 2018, the two sides agreed a deal which would see the UK as a whole remain in a joint ‘customs territory’ with the EU until an alternative trade deal could be reached. However, it remains to be seen if Theresa May can win a commons’ majority for this deal, with critics claiming that such an arrangement will hand control of the UK’s trade to a foreign power.

Theresa May's deal goes to a Commons vote - December 2018

After many months of negotiation, Theresa May finally put a draft deal – a successor to the failed Chequers agreement – to her cabinet in November 2018. The new deal represented a step towards a soft Brexit, as it detailed a plan for trade during the transition period, the Irish border, the rights of UK and EU citizens.

The prime minister declared that the cabinet had accepted her deal ‘collectively’ following around five hours of discussions on 14 November 2018. However, this terminology implied that the decision was not unanimous, with reports later suggesting that up to ten ministers had offered criticism of the prime minister’s plan – particularly the Irish backstop. Several cabinet members resigned immediately, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. Many other MPs also expressed concerns over the proposed deal.

On 25 November 2018, a summit of EU leaders agreed to the prime minister’s deal. After the announcement, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated that the decision was ‘not a moment of jubilation but a moment of deep sadness’ in light of Britain’s seemingly solidified departure.

Theresa May's deal goes to a commons vote

On 10 December 2018, one day before the House of Commons was set to vote on the prime minister’s deal, Theresa May decided to postpone the vote in lieu of serious opposition from both sides of the aisle and speculation the deal would be rejected by the House.

The prime minister promised to return to Brussels to seek assurances from EU leaders on certain aspects of her deal – particularly with regard to clarification on the Irish backstop and whether the UK would be tied indefinitely to a customs union with the EU.

Vote of confidence in Theresa May - December 2018

On 12 December, a vote of confidence in Theresa May was brought forward by her own party. The vote saw 117 Conservative MPs move against her, but she prevailed with 200 voting in her favour. Now, the prime minster is exempt from challenges from within her own party until December 2019, but her government could still face a motion of no confidence from the House of Commons, should a majority of MPs back the idea.

Theresa May's deal is defeated - January 2019

Following the delay of the first vote, a second vote was scheduled for 15 January 2019. The prime minister’s deal was historically defeated by 432 votes to 202 in the Commons, as had been expected at the time of the first scheduled vote. Her deal included plans for the rights of UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK, as well as for the transition period, a divorce settlement of £39 billion, and a contentious plan for the Irish border.

Many MPs said that the prime minister’s draft agreement was simply a bad deal and that they could not in good conscience give it their support. As a result of the thumping defeat, Jeremy Corbyn triggered a vote of no confidence in the government, scheduled for 16 January 2019. What will happen in the coming days and weeks depends on whether the government survives the vote, and whether there can be some form of renegotiation on the deal.

Theresa May comes up with ‘Plan B’ – January 2019

Following the defeat of her Brexit plan on 15 January 2019, the prime minister had three parliamentary working days to put forward a ‘Plan B’. Her proposal – presented on 21 January 2019 – proved similar to the rejected deal, with only very minor tweaks. However, the prime minister promised to look again at the contentious Irish backstop with a view to getting the deal through the Commons.

Theresa May’s deal is defeated for a second time – March 2019

Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected for a second time on 12 March 2019. While the majority – 391 to 242 – was not as crushing as the vote of 15 January, it still constituted a decisive defeat for the prime minister’s efforts in her Brexit negotiations.

MPs express their desire to avoid no-deal Brexit – March 2019

On 13 March, MPs voted by 321 to 278 in a motion to avoid a no-deal departure. While this vote was not legally binding on the EU or its member states, it indicated that there was strong support for a final deal to be reached before the UK leave the bloc.

MPs express their desire to extend article 50 – March 2019

On 14 March, MPs voted by 413 to 202 to seek an extension to article 50. Theresa May subsequently returned to EU leaders to seek this extension, which she secured.

First round of indicative votes held in the Commons – March 2019

A series of indicative votes was held on 27 March with the aim of highlighting which option had the most support from the Commons. While no option was able to command a majority, a second referendum had the most support. However, whether a second referendum will take place remains to be seen, and it is a highly contentious issue – seen by many to be flying in the face of the initial referendum result.

Theresa May’s deal is defeated for a third time – March 2019

In a move which shocked few within her own party, the prime minister met with her backbench MPs and ministers at the 1922 Committee on 27 March, the same day as the indicative votes. She promised that, should her party get behind her deal, she would step down. This would allow for someone else to lead negotiations on the UK’s future relationship from the EU – most likely a Brexiteer – during the transition period.

However, Theresa May’s Brexit deal was defeated for a third time on 29 March by a margin of 344 to 286.

Second round of indicative votes held in the Commons – April 2019

There was a second round of indicative votes held on 1 April which were aimed at increasing a majority for the most popular options proposed on 27 March. The most popular was a confirmatory referendum with 280 voting in favour and 292 voting against. Meanwhile, a customs union narrowly missed out on a majority, losing by three votes.

The two other options were for common market 2.0 – a proposal to join the single market and a customs union – which was defeated by 21 votes, and a vote proposed by MP Joanna Cherry which would give MPs the power to block no deal by revoking article 50. This proposal was the least popular of the night, with just 191 MPs voting in favour of it and 292 voting against.

Cooper-Letwin amendment is passed – April 2019

On 3 April, MPs voted by 313 to 312 to pass the Cooper-Letwin amendment which would seek a further extension to article 50 to avoid no deal. The vote represents the first indicative vote which has been able to secure a majority in the Commons – though the result is not legally binding on the EU.

Theresa May requests another article 50 extension – April 2019

With the 12 April deadline fast approaching – and with no new developments coming from the Commons – Theresa May wrote to Donald Tusk on 5 April, requesting that the deadline for the UK’s departure be extended to 30 June 2019. In her request, the prime minister made clear that should a deal be passed before 22 May, the UK would not hold European elections, but that the necessary preparations are being made in the event that these elections need to be held.

Equally, EU diplomats stated that even if the UK was bound to hold European elections, the UK could withdraw its MEPs once a final deal had been approved by the Commons. Their space in the European Parliament would be filled by delegates from the remaining 27 European member states.

The Brexit deadline is pushed back to 31 October – April 2019

Following a meeting of European leaders on the 10 April, it was agreed that the deadline for the UK’s departure from the bloc would be pushed back to 31 October – a full seven months past the initial 29 March deadline.

The UK will be allowed to leave the EU before the 31 October, but only if the House of Commons approves the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement.

Theresa May confirms a fourth vote – May 2019

On 21 May, the prime minister announced that she will put her vote to a fourth – and in the eyes of many commentators, final – round of debate in the Commons. She did so in the face of opposition from her own party – with the 1922 Committee and the European Research Group (ERG) voicing strong criticism of the prime minister’s deal, and with some Conservative MPs calling for her resignation.

This criticism grew so strong that Theresa May decided to postpone the vote – which was initially scheduled for the start of June 2019. As a result, a shadow was cast over the future of her premiership – with many in the media beginning to count her remaining time as prime minister in days rather than months.

On 13 March, MPs voted by 321 to 278 in a motion to avoid a no-deal departure. While this vote is not legally binding on the EU or its member states, it is indicative that there is strong support in Britain for a final deal to be reached before the UK leave the bloc.

Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected for a second time on 12 March 2019. While the majority – 391 to 242 – was not as crushing as the vote of 15 January, it still constitutes a decisive defeat for the prime minister’s efforts so far in her Brexit negotiations.

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1 For forex based on number of primary relationships with FX traders (Investment Trends UK Leveraged Trading Report released August 2018).
2Negative balance protection applies to trading-related debt only, and is not available to professional traders.

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