Cable softens as UK nears general election – and that’s when the real pain begins
Markets usually know what to do in a general election – hope a right-leaning party takes the day. But what happens when the socialists are the ones who could have the best approach to the economy?
In other circumstances, Boris Johnson would be the perfect election candidate. Sterling would surge on expectations that he would stroll comfortably to a majority. He’s charismatic, respected by many, and is facing up against Jeremy Corbyn – the perennial fence-sitter who struggles to keep his own party united.
But, as far as the markets are concerned, the current Prime Minister has a major flaw. He seems determined to take the UK out of the European Union without a deal on October 31st. He may make claims to the contrary, but his extended proroguing of Parliament and his refusal to budge on the Irish border backstop make negotiating and ratifying a new deal virtually impossible.
GBP/USD rallies hard after Boris Johnson Parliamentary defeat
It was for this reason that Sterling rallied hard this week as the opposition, with the support of 21 Conservative rebels, forced through a bill that would allow them to take control of the Parliamentary agenda and table new legislation obligating Johnson to get an extension.
Cable shot up 1.3% in overnight trading, and pushed 0.6% higher the following session to rebound from “flash crash” lows to its highest levels ($1.2350) in nearly six weeks. EUR/GBP was forced lower, falling from €0.9080 to €0.8940.
Johnson responded by calling for a snap general election, but his efforts were thwarted. Labour abstained from the vote, meaning the motion failed to receive the two-thirds majority required.
Parties fight over election date, but a vote is coming
So, we currently have Boris Johnson, who has repeatedly stated he doesn’t want a general election, desperately pushing to dissolve Parliament. He’ll try again on Monday with another vote. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn, who has been calling for an election for months now, has refused the offer.
Welcome to Brexit politics.
There will be a vote though, the question remains when. Labour and the Liberal Democrats want to ensure the new legislation that prevents a no deal exit has been passed before they agree to a vote. Otherwise Johnson, who would have the power to set the actual date of the election, could simply opt for November 1st – after the UK has left the EU. It’s for the same reason that Johnson is so keen to get the opposition to agree to it now.
Even that isn’t the end of it. There’s a risk for the opposition in waiting for an election. If Boris Johnson does set the voting date after the UK’s departure, he will have been the Prime Minister who successfully delivered ‘the will of the people’. Boris couldn’t ask for a better string to his electoral bow.
Markets forced to choose between anti-economy and anti-business
But those are problems for the parties to concern themselves with. The issue for markets is do they back anti-EU Johnson, or anti-business Corbyn? In this poll, both candidates threaten the UK economy.
The business world has been largely outspoken against a no deal exit – if it does deal huge economic damage, a pro-business Conservative might not be enough to repair the damage.
But is it better to soften Brexit and then leave the nation in the hands of Jeremy Corbyn, a man who intends to completely transform the economy anyway? His plans include nationalising rail, water, electricity and mail companies. He wants to increase taxes for the rich, vastly increase public spending, and redistribute powers from corporations to workers.
Again, in a straightforward election, this would be a simple call for the markets: go for the man who doesn’t want to come after their investments. But, although Corbyn has them firmly in his crosshairs, he is at least committed to keeping as much of the status quo in terms of trade intact for business as possible.
Are markets comfortable to have the same percentage of a smaller pie, or a smaller percentage of the same pie?