The ink on the…’deal’ that Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party secured with the European Union has barely dried, yet already bookmakers are offering odds on the United Kingdom to rejoin it. It might seem like an unlikely occurrence, but so did both Brexit and Donald Trump winning the United States presidential election before both things happened, so you just never know.
Savvy bettors saw the chance to take advantage of the Brexit vote, duly doing exactly that. Is betting on the UK rejoining the European Union something that we should all be thinking about doing? It’s not just as simple as the politicians in charge deciding that we should do it, of course, with the likelihood being that a second referendum would be necessary. Add into that the idea that the EU might not want us back and you can see why it’s complicated.
Current Odds On Britain To Re-Join The EU
Many bookmakers actively avoid controversy and with few topics as controversial as Brexit it is no surprise that the majority are steering clear of the market, at least while so much uncertainty exists.
There is of course one betting brand that seeks out to be controversial and that is Paddy Power. At the time of writing Paddy are offering the following odds on the UK to rejoin the EU before 2026:
- Yes – 5/1
- No – 1/10
The Story Of Brexit
Whichever side of the Brexit debate you come down on, when you think about how it came about it’s an absolutely crackers story. David Cameron promised a referendum on the subject of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, largely in order to silence the Eurosceptic part of his own political party. Instead of silencing them, he put them centre-stage and watched as the country he led was torn asunder.
The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto made the promise of an in-out referendum on European membership, suggesting that it was a major issue that Britons had been ignored on for too long. In actuality, all but the most myopic of Brits even gave it a second thought prior to the campaign, with the topic instead being one that was largely restricted to the Tory backbenchers and had been since Margaret Thatcher’s time in power.
Cameron promised a referendum and on the 23rd of June 2016 he delivered one. After months of fierce campaigning from both sides, including the assassination of Remain supporting Member of Parliament Jo Cox by a man shouting ‘This is for Britain’ as he murdered her. The campaigns were seen as toxic by many, with both sides making claims and counter-claims.
It was still expected that Remain would win, albeit far more narrowly than was expected when the referendum was first announced. It was only really when the result from Sunderland came in that people realised that something genuinely seismic was happening, with Leave winning there by a far larger margin than anyone expected, given the city’s ties to Europe thanks to its car manufacturing plants.
Leave won the advisory vote by roughly 52% to 48%, with David Cameron resigning from office on the morning the result was announced. Theresa May soon took over as the Prime Minister, attempting to thrash out a deal with the European Union that was acceptable to all parties. She failed, soon having to leave office herself and being replaced by Boris Johnson, who then had to try to come up with a deal himself.
Those That Bet On Brexit
Now that we know the background of the Brexit vote, it’s important to have a look at the people that bet on what happened happening. In the days building up the referendum itself, newspaper reports suggested that the betting market had made a huge shift towards Remain. With three days to go before the vote, Ladbrokes had Leave on just 27%, whilst William Hill had it at 28.5%.
On the Monday before the referendum, the Head of Political Betting at Ladbrokes, Matthew Shaddick, said,
“Looking closely at the figures, the proportion of money being placed on Leave hit its peak a couple of weeks ago. The picture certainly looks significantly different to last Monday.”
That was a sentiment that was backed by William Hill, though their spokesperson called the situation ‘volatile’.
Leave was the vote that the bookmakers feared the most, having taken huge sums of money on it happening. Some of them came when the odds on such an outcome were long, with betting on the referendum being the biggest market for any form of political event in the history of the United Kingdom. More than £30 million had been bet on it in the week leading up to the vote, just £5 million short of the bets on the 2014 World Cup.
Perhaps it was the fact that the vote was always likely to be close that encouraged people to bet on Leave when the odds were so long. Ladbrokes said in the wake of the referendum result that bookmakers had ‘got the EU referendum outcome completely wrong’, suggesting that tough questions would need to be asked as a result. The company offered odds of 4/1 for Leave as polls closed.
The idea of a Remain vote was, they said, 90% certain. The final amount staked on either outcome was in excess of £40 million, with the bookies making a large amount of money as a result. The reason that Shaddick gave for the bookmakers being so off was that most political betting is done by those that are relatively well off, the majority of whom were supporting Remain and therefore that’s where the money was.
The Campaigns To Take Us Back In
It was clear from the moment that it was confirmed that Leave had won the referendum that Remainers weren’t likely to take the result lying down. When information about fraudulent activity from Vote Leave emerged, the anger of Remainers simply increased. The only good news, in the eyes of most Remain voters, was the fact that the United Kingdom didn’t crash out of the EU with no deal whatsoever.
Obviously it didn’t take long for campaigns to re-join the European Union to be launched. Lord Michael Heseltine, the former Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, declared his desire to see the country part of Europe once more, promising to push for exactly that. ‘The battle starts again’, he said. His hope was that the next generation of political voices would be pro-European and move to take us back in.
The betting markets soon responded to such a notion, with the majority of major bookmakers offering odds on the rEUnion happening in the coming years. The market started off at odds of around 33/1 in the wake of Boris Johnson’s deal with the European Union, but shortened to 16/1 relatively quickly. Most bookies were offering bets on the UK rejoining by 2025 or 2026.
Betting On A rEUnion
Whatever else can be said about Brexit, the sunlit uplands promised by Vote Leave are impossible to achieve. The campaign promised voters that they could have all of the benefits of being in the European Union without any of the downsides, but that’s simply not true. Even the deal struck by Boris Johnson won’t make life as easy as Leave campaigners promised, so at some point reality will bite.
Whether it be for people who do business with European customers suddenly finding themselves out of business because of the amount of red tape involved in such moves, or holiday makers that are frustrated with how long it takes to get through customs, vast swatches of people will see what Brexit is really like and almost certainly change their minds. The reality of it all will not meet their expectations.
The most hardcore Brexiteers won’t care about this, of course, because they wanted to be out of the EU regardless of the cost. Most voters don’t fit into that category, however, so things like food shortages and higher prices will mean that their opinions start to sway. It is under that likely scenario that campaigns to rejoin the trading bloc will be run and they will almost certainly gain a huge amount of support in the coming years.
The question then becomes whether it’s likely to happen or not. The short answer to that is ‘no’, especially as the Leavers will have the excuse of Covid-19 to point to when it comes to what is to blame for the failing economy and difficulty to move between countries. That being said, neither the original Brexit vote nor Donald Trump being elected to the office of the President of the United States of America seemed likely to happen before they did.
What Would Need To Happen
There’s no question that Leavers have done a huge amount of damage to the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union. That is neither surprising nor something that they can be particularly criticised for, given the fact that they think the trading bloc is akin to the devil incarnate. What it does mean, though, is that the likelihood of us being able to re-join the EU without major concessions is unlikely.
Even if the people of the UK decided that they did want back in in order to make going on holiday, living and working in Europe much easier, there would be major objection to that from a political point of view. Those in charge of negotiating any sort of return to Europe would object to doing so because of that, making it extremely difficult for it to even be a starting point in the same way that leaving was in the first place.
If we were to get to the point of a potential rEUnion, the first port of call would be for another referendum on the issue to be promised. That would, of course, present people with another betting opportunity, but would lack the ante-post odds that you’re able to get on us re-joining as things currently stand. It’s the move to get long odds as those that bet on Leave winning did that punters will want to consider.
Factors To Consider
When it comes to thinking about the likelihood of Britain re-joining the European Union, there are a couple of factors that you should consider. They will almost certainly not happen for a couple of years, but could be telling when it comes to any future referendum on the matter of the country’s EU membership. The first one is that of Scottish independence from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Scotland overwhelming voted Remain in the referendum of 2016, having only narrowly decided to stay part of the union by 55% to 45% two years earlier. The campaign to leave Britain is now likely to ramp up, with another referendum on the issue likely to come in the next year or so. Should Scotland vote to leave, it would then be able to apply to re-join the EU on its own further down the line.
A Scottish move for independence would almost certainly then increase the noises from Northern Ireland about leaving the United Kingdom and creating a united Ireland. That would, of course, be a far more hotly contested topic, even with the problems that Brexit is throwing up for the Emerald Isle. Northern Island was, of course, another part of the country that voted overwhelmingly in favour of Remain.
Should Scotland gain independence then it would be almost impossible for Northern Ireland to be ignored on the same topic, especially when you consider that the country has been in the eye of the storm when it comes to the border problem over there. The Belfast Agreement brought peace to the island of Ireland and governments on both sides of the Irish Sea worked hard to stop it from being broken, so peace must be maintained.
If we get to the point that both Scotland and Ireland have broken free of the UK then it surely wouldn’t be long before Wales began to ask the same question. The issue for England would then become whether there was any point in trying to re-join the European Union when we’d no longer have a lot to offer and certainly wouldn’t have the power that we did before Brexit.
These are all things to keep your eye on when weighting up whether or not to place a bet on a rEUnion, given that all of them are questions that will be asked in the coming years. Indeed, we’ll probably have answers to those questions before we even think about a second referendum on EU membership.