Would market shock drive parliament’s hand on Brexit?

LONDON (Reuters) – There’s nothing like a market crash to focus the minds of politicians, and Prime Minister Theresa May may discover that solely a plunge in British asset costs can persuade a divided parliament to again her Brexit deal.

FILE PHOTO: British and EU flags are seen earlier than Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May meets with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to debate draft agreements on Brexit, on the EC headquarters in Brussels, Belgium November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

But how a lot do traders reckon sterling and shares would have to tank earlier than lawmakers determine “no deal” exit from the European Union should be averted?

Expectations that parliament will reject the withdrawal settlement May has negotiated with the EU have prompted traders to begin shopping for safety in opposition to a sterling plunge, and implied market volatility measures are up.

So far, nevertheless, there isn’t any signal of the form of monetary market carnage which may swing each pro- and anti-Brexit MPs behind May’s deal for concern that Britain may blunder out of the bloc on March 29 with no transition preparations in place.

That suggests traders nonetheless see some type of negotiated exit because the almost definitely final result.

The Bank of England has warned “no deal” situation can be an financial shock akin to the 1970s oil disaster.

“In what could concentrate the minds of politicians, you would need to see a significant fall (in asset prices) — more than we saw last week,” mentioned Robin Marshall, a director for fastened earnings at funding agency Smith & Williamson.

He estimated a swift transfer of between 5 and seven % in sterling and the stock market would immediate a response.

Parliament is prone to vote on May’s deal in mid-December. If cross-party opposition defeats her plans, the chance turns into actual that Brexit will turn into “no deal” by default.

That may spark what former government advisor Rupert Harrison, now a portfolio supervisor at BlackRock, has dubbed the “TARP” mannequin: the ensuing market crash would see lawmakers shortly abandon opposition to May’s deal and approve it on the second try with minor modifications.

TARP is a reference to the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a U.S. government initiative to bail out banks on the top of the 2008 monetary disaster. Rejection of TARP by the House of Representatives on Sept. 29 triggered an nearly 10 % fall on Wall Street. The House backtracked 4 days later.

Other such parallels abound. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, elected in 2015 to reverse EU-imposed austerity, rowed again on marketing campaign guarantees as tumbling markets endangered Greek banks.

In May, the most important Italian bond selloff in 25 years pressured two bickering political events to the desk to type a coalition government, with politicians scrambling to reaffirm Rome’s dedication to the euro.


Closer to home, there was “Black Wednesday”, the day in 1992 when Britain was ejected from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) — a precursor to the euro — after it may not defend the pound in opposition to speculative assaults. The disaster pressured authorities right into a brutal cycle of rate of interest hikes.

“Hard” Brexit may trigger comparable financial catastrophe. UBS calculates Britain would lose 10 % of output, faring solely barely higher with a “soft” deal, at 6 %.

But it will likely be sterling that may take centre-stage if the TARP mannequin is to rescue May — her game-plan in line with some, though others view it as wishful considering. They argue that market swings already seen because the June 2016 referendum have executed little to alter lawmakers’ views about Brexit and what type it ought to take.

“My view is sterling has to come under more pressure to become party to the chaos,” mentioned Salman Ahmed, chief funding strategist at Lombard Odier.

Ahmed reckons that in a no-deal Brexit situation the pound would slide one other 10-12 %. That would depart sterling close to $1.13, its lowest in additional than 30 years.

“In Greece for example, the pain in the market especially in the banking sector helped contribute to the compromise by Alexis Tsipras. I don’t see that happening just yet in the UK because it’s not been shocking enough,” he mentioned.

Observers word current sterling strikes have been restricted, regardless of showing dramatic. When the EU rejected May’s Chequers proposals for post-Brexit ties on Sept. 21, sterling dropped 1.7 %. It slid one other 2 % on Nov. 15 when ministers stop over May’s newly-inked deal.

That compares with a 7.eight % drop in opposition to the greenback on June 24, 2016, the day after the Brexit referendum.

Growing expectations that parliament will reject May’s deal may themselves undermine the TARP situation if a first-time failure for the invoice is priced into markets.

Relatively contained strikes up to now replicate the idea amongst traders clean exit or perhaps a second referendum are extra probably than a messy no-deal. That’s made them cautious of promoting sterling outright, fearing an enormous rebound within the undervalued foreign money if an exit deal is reached.

They have resorted as an alternative to derivatives slightly than spot international alternate markets to take positions.

There are indicators that if issues begin getting actually painful, different asset lessons will really feel it too.

Last week, when it appeared that ministers have been mobilising to unseat May, the FTSE’s inverse correlation with sterling vanished — a uncommon incidence of the foreign money and British shares falling in tandem.

It additionally provided a glimpse of the broader financial chaos. Property shares fell sharply, elevating fears the housing market, the shop of most Britons’ wealth, would take a success. Bank shares tumbled too, rekindling recollections of Northern Rock’s collapse in 2007.


Most traders are reluctant to choose a specific stage that will persuade politicians to agree a deal. But a rush in possibility markets to guard in opposition to additional sterling slides reveals nervousness is rising.

BNY Mellon strategist Simon Derrick expects motion when headlines of market mayhem unfold worldwide at a time when liquidity is skinny because the end-of-year holidays strategy.

“It’s when the volatility starts to spill over into international markets,” he mentioned, pointing to the December-January interval when, after a failed first try and get it via parliament, the government would have a brief window to strive once more.

A rout within the pound presents dangers as a result of the UK’s giant present account deficit makes it — in Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s phrases — reliant on the “kindness of strangers” or abroad funding to pay its payments.

Slideshow (three Images)

Sterling’s devaluation because the 2016 referendum has shrunk the deficit nevertheless it nonetheless stands at three.9 % of GDP.

Ben Lord, a UK fund supervisor at M&G Investments, famous this was just like ranges seen in the course of the ERM disaster or Britain’s 1976 bailout by the International Monetary Fund.

“We don’t want a catalyst where we see those strangers, those foreign sources of money stop funding us. That’s when we get a very sharp sterling devaluation.”

Additional reporting by Sujata Rao, Saikat Chatterjee and Abhinav Ramnarayan; Graphics by Ritvik Carvalho; Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Catherine Evans

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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