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Brexit: UK pound hit as talk of snap election swirls — latest news

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Goldman Sachs: odds of no-deal Brexit rise to 1 in 4

As tensions increase within Tory ranks, the chances of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal are also on the rise, according to Goldman Sachs.

The investment bank says there is now a 1 in 4 chance of a no-deal Brexit, up from 1 in 5 previously, ahead of this week’s standoff between party rebels and the government.

Analysts at Goldman reckon MPs will likely be successful in their push to pass legislation to block no deal this week, but caution that this will not put an end to the matter, with a general election seen as increasingly imminent.

“If this week’s legislative counterattack culminates in a pre-Brexit general election, that general election may return a new configuration of MPs in which there is a clear majority for a no-deal Brexit,” the analysts said.

Goldman’s latest prediction follows a similar move raising probability of no deal by JPMorgan last week, which boosted its odds of a crash out to 35 per cent, from 25 per cent previously.

Rebel Alliance gathers

Tory MPs opposed to no deal are holding a meeting at 2.30pm, our chief political correspondent Jim Pickard writes.

One of them tells me that the looming threat of a general election could be bona fide, but also could be Boris Johnson’s adviser and Leave campaign architect Dominic Cummings seeking to scare the rebels back into line.

“That lot are totally ruthless, they would say or do anything they feel necessary, part of me thinks this is a threat just to cow us.”

Then again I’ve also just chatted to a loyalist minister who thinks a general election is now the only way out of the political morass: “It needs to happen, what choice do we have, what other way is there through?”

And in other news….

In the ramp-up to a possible election, everything is fair game. And here’s Boris Johnson giving the news cycle a cuddle with some snaps of his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, and their new rescue puppy. The dog is called Dilyn, which translates along the lines of “loyal” from Gaelic and “follow” from Welsh.

Note they did not christen it “backstop.”

This, our Whitehall correspondent Seb Payne informs us, is Carrie’s second-ever official photo.

Johnson is ‘pushing the UK constitution to the limit’

Our columnist, constitutional lawyer David Allen Green, has this to say about Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament:

Prorogation was a minor detail of our unwritten constitution, done in the name of the monarch — but in reality at the choice of the prime minister — to ensure a neat parliamentary separation between one legislative term and the next.

But all this has changed.

Boris Johnson’s government is pushing the UK’s uncodified constitution to its limits, if not beyond. Conventions are being flouted brazenly. This, as with the many other constitutional wrongs committed by this government, will have lasting consequences for the UK polity.

But the government cannot take it for granted that the courts will nod along with this vandalism. To adapt a famous constitutional saying, the arrogance of the executive has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

Read David’s full column here.

Irish PM suggests meeting Johnson next week for first time

Leo Varadkar has said he will listen to “any proposals” from Boris Johnson on the future of the Irish border after the UK leaves the EU as Ireland’s premier said he may meet his UK counterpart next week for the first time.

But the Irish leader insisted nothing the UK has presented would settle the problem, Arthur Beesley in Dublin writes.

Mr Varadkar added that he wanted to see how events unfold in Westminster this week before taking stock.

What I would say is that this is a very volatile and dynamic situation. Events are happening in the House of Commons this week and we’re going to have to see how they pan out.

I could very easily say something today or make an initiative and find out in 48 hours that it is totally out of date, so I think we have to allow things to develop in Westminster, in particular over the next week and review the situation again next week.

Mr Varadkar has not met Mr Johnson since the British prime minister took office in July. Officials are looking at two possible dates for a meeting next week, he indicated.

Mr Johnson wants to scrap the “backstop” to guarantee open borders between the Irish republic and Northern Ireland but Dublin insists the UK government has not put forward any viable alternative to it.

Bookie suspends general election bets

At least one major gambling businesses has called off bets on whether Boris Johnson will hold a general election.

Following the news that Mr Johnson has called a cabinet meeting for later today, Paddy Power said:

The odds of the election to be announced fell from 2/5 this morning, into 1/5 and finally 1/10 in the last hour – before the bookies stopped taking any further bets on it.

The Tories are currently the odds-on 4/11 favourites to win the election, with Labour rated 3/1 and the Liberal Democrats 11/1.

And, a no deal Brexit is now more likely – as the odds fall from 11/8 this morning to 11/10 now.

The news also makes the chances of Britain leaving without a deal more likely than ever.”

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No. 10 insists it doesn’t want election even as talk of one accelerates

Chatter about a snap election is going through the roof, says Sebastian Payne. But Downing Street officially insists that it still does not want an election – it wants to deliver Brexit on October 31 with or without a deal.

Its first instinct is that the public are “fed up” with the arguing about leaving the EU and wants “to end the nightmare on October 31”.

But Mr Johnson’s inner circle is unwilling to let parliament undermine the government’s negotiating strategy. Senior officials think that “sitting around” and waiting for parliament to act is “pointless”, citing how former prime minister Theresa May lost control of her Brexit strategy to MPs and was forced to delay the UK’s exit twice.

So while there is no inclination for a poll, insiders think it may be preferable to losing control of Brexit. One official said “the worst that can happen is it blows up into an election versus Corbyn” and, in that instance, those around the prime minister think the Vote Leave campaign team from the 2016 referendum, reconstituted inside government with Mr Johnson at the helm, can win.

‘Bring it on’ says Sturgeon as election speculation mounts

As speculation ricochets around Westminster that an imminent general election is in the offing, politicians are priming themselves, with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon the latest to weigh in.

“As talk of a General Election mounts, I say ‘bring it on’…but it must be before Oct 31,” Ms Sturgeon tweeted. “MPs must not allow Johnson to game the date as a ploy to push through a no deal Brexit.”

Speculation is rife that the prime minister might go to the polls in a bid to seek a new mandate to deliver Brexit, with or without a deal.

Ms Sturgeon’s comments follow reports from Sky News that Jeremy Corbyn has said he would back a snap election under any circumstances.

An election without economic certainty?

The FT’s economics editor Chris Giles points out that, in a snap election, the competing parties will have to put forward their tax and spending plans without any clear economic forecast.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments below the blog.

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Cabinet meeting planned for this afternoon

Boris Johnson has convened an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday afternoon, fuelling speculation that he could call a general election if his Brexit strategy is defeated in the House of Commons this week, reports the FT’s George Parker.

David Gauke, one of the leading Tory rebels opposed to a no-deal Brexit, said Mr Johnson was taking a “confrontational” approach with Tory rebels, with an aim of purging them from the party before calling an election.

Rumours swept Westminster on Monday morning that Mr Johnson could this week try to trigger an election with the aim of seeking a new public mandate to deliver Brexit, either with or without a deal.

Corbyn ‘will back’ a general election

Despite warnings from his predecessor Tony Blair that a general election called by Boris Johnson would be a “trap”, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appears to want the British public to once again go to the polls.

Following a press conference in Salford, Mr Corbyn told Sky’s Kate McCann that he would back a snap election under any circumstances, the political correspondent said on Twitter.

Gone to the dogs…

On a slightly lighter note, there has been a new addition to the Downing Street staff in the shape of a four-month-old puppy which is taking up residence with the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and his partner, Carrie Symonds.

The 15-week-old Jack Russell-cross has been adopted from Friends of Animals Wales, after being rescued from a Welsh puppy farm.

Johnson ‘does not want to force election’ ⁠⁠— spokesperson

Boris Johnson is not attempting to “goad” Tory rebels into voting against him in parliament and ultimately sparking an election, his spokesperson has said.

The prime minister’s representative rejected allegations levied by David Gauke that Mr Johnson is intentionally stoking a rebellion in his own party in an attempt to force an election, the FT’s George Parker reports.

“His answer is that he doesn’t want there to be an election,” the spokesman told reporters in London. “What he wants is for the UK to get out of the EU on October 31 and that’s what he’s working on.”

Downing St said that Boris Johnson would be meeting Tory MPs during the course of the day. There will also be a potentially awkward, long-planned drinks reception for all Tory MPs at Downing St tonight. Expect some tense discussions over the canapes.

Meanwhile David Frost, Mr Johnson’s Brexit negotiator, will be in Brussels this week to discuss the Irish backstop and changes to the non-binding political declaration, pointing Britain in the direction of a Canada-style free trade agreement.

So far Britain has tabled no new proposals as an alternative to the backstop and Number 10 gave no indication that Mr Frost would do so this week.

Blair: beware the election ‘elephant trap’

Speculation is raging in Westminster that any move by Boris Johnson to goad anti no-deal ministers into resigning could be a precursor to the prime minister calling a snap general election.

How? Well, if Mr Johnson loses his already-slim majority in parliament because rebel MPs resign en masse, he could seek a snap election to strengthen his position as prime minister.

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The focus of Conservative supporters and potential voters could then shift from no-deal fears to worries about a Jeremy Corbyn-led, leftwing government.

Mr Blair said earlier today, as reported by newswires:

Boris Johnson knows that if no-deal Brexit stands on its own as a proposition it might well fail but if he mixes it up with the Corbyn question in a general election he could succeed despite a majority being against a no-deal Brexit because some may fear a Corbyn premiership more.

Mr Blair forecast that Mr Johnson’s election campaign would be framed as a choice between a populist Conservative programme versus the economic profligacy of a far-left administration.

Mr Blair then advised Mr Corbyn not to fall for such a ploy, adding he should:

See an election before Brexit is decided for the elephant trap it is.

He then advised:

If the government tries to force an election now, Labour should vote against it.

What about the Irish border?

Here, our columnist Jonathan Ford wonders why Boris Johnson seems not to be bothered by the question of the Irish border post-Brexit.

The Irish Republic will of course remain in the EU, while Northern Ireland would leave with Britain.

The “biggest barrier” in the way of a consensual Brexit, Jonathan writes, is the so-called Irish backstop that would keep Northern Ireland and by extension the UK in some aspects of the European Single Market, until a solution is found to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

Mr Johnson is against this backstop concept, while the EU is for it.

Yet when it comes to producing a plan to scrap it, Jonathan writes, Mr Johnson’s ministers have been strangely silent.

Read more here

Shadow cabinet set to meet in Salford to finalise gameplan

Senior officials in the opposition Labour party will meet at an emergency shadow cabinet in Salford today to set out their plans for the week to block a no-deal Brexit ahead of parliament’s return tomorrow.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Jeremy Corbyn said a no-deal Brexit would “decimate industry and destroy people’s jobs”.

In a wide ranging speech, the leader of the opposition set out his party’s stall ahead of a possible general election in the not-so-distant future.

He described the prime minister’s plans to suspend parliament for five weeks in order to limit the time opponents of his strategy have to thwart it as “an attack on democracy which will be resisted”.

“First we must come together to stop no-deal. This week could be our last chance,” said Mr Corbyn.

“We are working with other parties to do everything necessary to pull our country back from the brink. Then we need a general election.”

FTSE 100 extends four-day winning streak

London’s benchmark stock index is up 1.2 per cent in mid-morning trading, adding nearly 3 per cent since its close on August 27. Many blue chips are multinationals that traditionally benefit from a weaker pound. Sterling was recently down 0.7 per cent against the dollar at $1.2076. That makes it 8 per cent lower than it was six months ago. Against the euro, it was at €1.1011, down 0.5 per cent.

UK government debt rallies as no-deal Brexit fears swell

Investors are shifting into UK government bonds amid deepening worries that Britain is heading for a potentially damaging no-deal Brexit.

Two-year gilts, seen as sensitive to expectations for monetary policy, are rallying the most strongly. The yield is currently down 4.8 basis points at 0.353 per cent. The 10-year gilt yield is down 3.4 bps at 0.446 per cent. Yields fall when prices rise.

The recent fall in gilt yields is part of a broad rally in the debt of highly rated countries. But it also comes amid rising jitters that the UK will exit the EU with no divorce deal — something that is broadly expected to hit the economy.

Brexit uncertainty has already shown up in economic data. A report released on Monday showed factory activity is contracting at the swiftest pace in seven years.

Who are the Tory rebels?

Heavy hitting former cabinet ministers are among a group of Tory MPs who have come out against a no-deal Brexit:

Philip Hammond, chancellor during Theresa May’s premiership
David Lidington, the former deputy prime minister
Guto Bebb, former Tory defence minister
Rory Stewart, former international development secretary
David Gauke, the former Tory justice secretary (see Naomi’s post below)

Last month 21 Conservative MPs signed a letter opposing a no-deal Brexit.

The ‘Rebel Alliance’

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…OK not really. But British politics now has its own so-called Rebel Alliance in the form of Conservative politicians who are opposed to the UK leaving the EU on October 31 without a transition deal.

In a BBC radio interview this morning David Gauke, who is considered the, ahem, Luke Skywalker of the rebels, accused Mr Johnson of “goading” MPs who do not agree with him into rebelling so he can then purge them from the Tory party.

Mr Johnson has warned the rebels they will lose the party whip and be banned from standing as Conservative candidates in an election, which some believe he could call within days if he is defeated in the Commons this week.

On the Today programme, Mr Gauke said:

I think their strategy, to be honest, is to lose this week and seek a general election having removed those of us who are not against Brexit or leaving the EU but believe we should do so with a deal.

On Sunday, Mr Johnson refused a request from the Tory rebels for a meeting at Westminster today and Mr Gauke confirmed this morning that party whips or other senior figures were doing nothing to try to win over the rebels.

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Of course, removing sitting Tory MPs would make Mr Johnson lose his majority in parliament, at which point a snap general election becomes more likely.

Sterling shaken by escalating standoff within Tory party

The pound fell below $1.21 this morning, as the Tory civil war intensified, with expectations of a rocky week ahead for the currency amid plans by party rebels to work with Labour to block a no-deal Brexit.

Sterling shed 0.7 per cent against the dollar to trade most recently at $1.2075. Against the euro, it was down 0.5 per cent at €1.1012.

Traders will be closely watching as the opposition, in tandem with the rebels, looks to seize control of the House of Commons order paper and then pass a law to stop Mr Johnson from executing a no-deal departure from the EU on October 31.

Mr Johnson told the rebels on Sunday they would be stripped of the party whip and banned from standing as Tory candidates at the next election if they do not back his tough line on Brexit.

“The pound will initially attempt to add to its recent gains if opposition MPs are successful in passing legislation in the week ahead,” said Lee Hardman, a currency analyst at MUFG.

“However, those gains could prove short-lived as it remains unclear how the government will respond to the request from parliament.”

A must read: the Corbyn shake-up

Meanwhile, FT research outlines how the economic agenda of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party will change Britain’s economy:
FT Series: The Corbyn revolution

Cost soars for Labour’s grand pledge to reshape the economy: FT research finds the next Labour government will have to find at least £26bn in new tax rises

UK’s Labour party would seize £300bn of company shares

Corbyn’s plan to rewrite the rules

Mr Corbyn, pictured above with MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, is speaking in Salford this morning about his opposition to a no-deal Brexit.

What’s going on?

FT reporters and columnists have been hard at work on recent days explaining just what is going on in British politics. Here are some highlights from our coverage:

In this short video editorial director Robert Shrimsley explains why Boris Johnson wanted to suspend parliament and what this means for Brexit.

Constitutional lawyer David Allen Green argues here that the prorogration of parliament is “an attack on direct democracy.”

And here, political editor George Parker and chief political correspondent Jim Pickard explain the role of Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s backroom adviser and the architect of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, in parliament being suspended.

Scottish court: Judge knocks down attempt to overturn rejection of injunction

Well, that was fast. The judge in the Scottish court case against the suspension of parliament has dismissed an attempt to overturn his decision to reject a request for an emergency injunction. A hearing will take place tomorrow, as previously planned.

Tory civil war intensifies

Boris Johnson was accused on Monday of deliberately “goading” Conservative rebels into voting down his Brexit strategy so that he can purge them from the party and then hold a snap general election, writes the FT’s political editor George Parker.

David Gauke, one of the leading Tory rebels opposed to a no-deal Brexit, said Mr Johnson was taking a “confrontational” approach and was doing nothing to try to head off a defeat in the Commons this week.

His comments came after Boris Johnson threatened yesterday to purge some of the party’s biggest beasts — including former chancellor Philip Hammond — unless they back him in a key Brexit vote on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson last night abruptly cancelled face-to-face talks scheduled for this morning with 15 Tory rebels including Mr Hammond, David Lidington, the former deputy prime minister, and David Gauke, former justice secretary, citing a “diary clash” and further heightening tensions.

Petitioners in Scottish court challenge seek to appeal decision to reject emergency injunction of suspension

A Scottish court ruled last week against launching an emergency injunction to stop Boris Johnson from suspending parliament. A cross-party group of petitioners have now started a new attempt to have that decision overturned, reports the FT’s Scotland correspondent, Mure Dickie.

This case is one of three that are expected to be heard in courts across the UK this week against Mr Johnson’s proroguing of parliament that has thrust the UK into a constitutional crisis.

Welcome back

The FT’s Westminster live blog is back in action ahead of what is expected to be a hectic week in UK politics. Boris Johnson over the weekend threatened to strip the party whip from Tory MPs who stand against him in parliament later this week as the prime minister looks to thwart a rebellion in his own party.

Sterling has started the week off on weak footing, UK government bonds are rallying … and to top it off, we’ve received a round of gloomy data on the factory sector.

Follow along throughout the day as FT reporters bring you the latest developments.

Via Financial Times

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