Brexit entered a chaotic new chapter on Thursday as a swathe of government ministers — including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab — resigned in protest at the deal secured by Prime Minister Theresa May.
Raab’s resignation triggered a major fall in the pound, with UK-focused stocks following closely behind. Traders are bracing for a turbulent next few days, even weeks, in financial markets.
Investors and analysts across the City of London are scrambling to make sense of Thursday’s developments, especially the repercussions for the economy and UK assets.
Here’s what key figures in the City are saying. Check out their comments below:
Dean Turner, economist at UBS’ Wealth Management’s Chief Investment Office, says the deal will eventually get through parliament in its current form, but that it will be a bumpy road.
“The Brexit negotiations are entering the endgame but the final outcome still remains highly uncertain. The technocrats have, as expected, hammered a draft text for the withdrawal agreement it is now up to the politicians to finalize the deal,” he said in a note to clients Thursday morning.
“The risk to the deal succeeding or failing is now in the hands of UK members of parliament. Theresa May’s slim parliamentary majority, only possible with the support of the DUP, may not hold up when the WA is first shown to MPs. We expect a period of political turbulence in the coming weeks and the collateral damage to the government could be sizeable.
“However, we still think it is more likely than not that MPs will eventually ratify the WA as the alternative of a ‘no deal’ exit will be a less enticing prospect.”
Tina Fordham and Christian Schulz from Citi say the UK not leaving the EU is more likely than May’s deal getting through.
“In terms of outcomes, we see either ‘Never Brexit’ or a No-Deal Brexit — the two best and worst outcomes for the UK economy and markets — respectively, as considerably more likely than a successful vote on the current deal,” the pair wrote to clients on Thursday.
“28 months work appears to be unraveling in a matter of hours,” says a Bank of America Merrill Lynch team led by James Barty.
“Only one date in the diary really matters; the meaningful vote on the deal in parliament currently expected for 10 December. Until that risk event is behind us, we suspect it will be hard to have much confidence in any one scenario,” the team said.
That said, if May can cling on and somehow manage to push the deal through parliament, however unlikely that is, markets could rally sharply, the team argue.
“This would be enough to bring relief to markets as it would eliminate the risk of no deal, with all the risks that would bring. Until then, uncertainty provides downside risks to our below-consensus growth forecasts and suggests heightened risk premia.”
The chance of a no deal Brexit is now 50/50, says Capital Economics’ Vicky Redwood.
“News that Theresa May could soon face a leadership challenge is the latest twist in the Brexit saga, but even if she survives, the key point is that the chances of her deal being passed by parliament are not looking good,” Redwood wrote.
“There is therefore still a good chance (we’d say 50/50) of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, but the impact of this on the economy would depend on how ‘orderly’ a no deal it was.”
“We always warned that, even if the UK and EU managed to negotiate a deal, getting it through parliament was a big hurdle. And with the mooted leadership contest illustrating the strength of opposition to the deal from Conservative Eurosceptic, that hurdle now looks even bigger.”
Dr Daniel Harenberg, senior economist with Oxford Economics, says that the only certainty right now is uncertainty, and that this is likely to cause chaos in the markets.
“About the only thing that seems sure now is that the next few months will see considerable political upheaval, triggering bouts of significant market volatility,” he wrote to clients.
Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at £94 billion investments firm Hargreaves Lansdown, points out that while the stock market’s reaction looks subdued on the surface — the FTSE 100 is down just 0.5% — UK centric stocks are actually taking a pounding.
“The market has taken a big red pen to stocks which are heavily exposed to the UK economy like the banks, retailers and housebuilders. These sectors were already under pressure, but the potential for an orderly Brexit to unravel in the next few days is causing further distress to be manifested in share prices,” he wrote to clients.
Barclays, for instance, has today hit lows not seen since the day after Britain first voted to leave the EU.
“The pound has fallen, which is acting as a buoyancy aid for the Footsie index, as it boosts the share prices of the big international firms whose revenue streams largely come from overseas,” Khalaf added.
Will Hobbs, head of investment strategy at Barclays Smart Investor, says that UK assets are in for a “hair-raising time.”
“Our hunch remains that the potentially dark unknowns of a hard Brexit will incentivize compromise of one sort or another,” he wrote.
“If such a compromise is not found, we should be prepared for both the UK economy and its related assets to be subjected to a more hair-raising time for a while. Nonetheless, the intrinsic value of the stocks quoted on the UK’s exchanges tends to have little to do with the UK economy.”
Stephen Beer, CIO of Epworth Investment Management, thinks the penny has finally dropped on Brexit for many people.
“The truth is no one can accurately predict how this will play over the next few days and weeks. However, in some important respects, nothing has changed since the referendum,” he said.
“It remains the case that Brexit is likely to be economically worse for the UK than remaining in the European Union. What we have now is more people realising that.”