The January 29th 2019 amendments and the extension rumours

The January 29th 2019 amendments and the extension rumours


Earlier in January Parliament debated a deal with the European Union. The deal was formally known as the “Withdrawal Agreement”[15] and Parliament subjected it to a vote referred to as the “Meaningful Vote”, which was lost 432 to 202.[16] Subsequently seven amendments were scheduled for debate on January 29.[18][17] Five of those amendments failed but two amendments were passed.[17]

One of the failed amendments was “amendment B”, better known as the Cooper amendment. It would have provided time to enact the European Union (No. 3) Bill 2017-19, which would in turn instruct the Government to ask for an extension to Article 50 in the absence of a deal. This amendment did not enjoy support[19] and was defeated. The ones that passed were the “Spelman amendment I” which advised no-deal but did not compel it, and the “Brady amendment N” requesting that the Withdrawal Agreement be changed to replace the “backstop” (a provision to prevent unilateral divergence) with an alternative.

At this point, the course seemed set: an extension would not be sought and the Government would attempt a modified deal or leave on schedule without one. But then something counter-intuitive happened. The failure of the Cooper amendment meant that the Government could not be forced to seek an extension, but it could still seek one voluntarily. Rumours of this possibility had previously been low-key[20] but in the days immediately after the amendments they began to increase. The Foreign Secretary[21], the Chairman if the 1922 Committee[22], the chairs of Conservative party associations[23] and the chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group[24] all suggested that an extension was possible.

So an extension had moved from possibly compulsory, to rejected by Parliament, to necessary and desirable, and all within a single week. This affected the odds of the UK leaving the European Union on 29th March 2019. Snapshots of those odds are listed below.



The amendments caused the odds of not extending Article 50 and leaving on time (regardless of deal) to shorten and the odds on an extension to lengthen, but the rumours broadly reversed those changes. Anybody placing a bet between the amendments and the rumours might therefore feel foolish.

Gamblers may wish to consider the odds of no-deal offered by Betfair Sportsbook (“Brexit Deal – Withdrawal Agreement to be approved by The Council of the EU and UK Parliament before 30-03-2019: Yes 11/4, No 2/9)[5]: this is noticeably different from other odds of no deal, eg Betway (“Will there be a No Deal Brexit: Yes 51/20, No 1/4)[9].


Viewcode is a statistician who works in the private sector

References in the piece above are available by clicking here.

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