Brexit - Leave or Remain?

if I were to bet with Betfair five pounds, I would be confident of receiving two with the victory of “remain.We are, however, only at the beginning of a period of Euroèean accentuated turbulence.

The British referendum of June 23 is attracting to itself general attention in Europe. There seems to be a difference between the polls and betting bookmakers. The first give Brexit going up, even though according to the Financial Times the average of the polls suggest a slight advantage to Bremain (45% to 43%). However, a survey of the Independent, with “leave” at 55% and “remain” at 45%, caused a shock. But this is a survey kind that takes no account of the undecided. Instead if we look at bookmakers, returns see the “leave” to 32% (although higher compared to 22% a few weeks ago) and “remain” at 67%. Of course not always the odds bettors are correct ex post. For example in 2013 bookmakers failed predictions of general elections in Italy, because they had not grasped the great growth of the Grillo movement (M5S, Five Stars Movement).

However if I were to bet with Betfair five pounds, I would be confident of receiving two with the victory of “remain”, although I think that it will happen with a relatively smaller percentage gap. After all, the UK is not in the euro, it does not adhere to the Treaty of Schengen and to fiscal compact agreements, and it obtained additional special clauses with Cameron. Who votes Brexit does so mainly to put a limit to (if not send away) Community workers in the UK. In addition there are increasing attempts to influence voters: the Times reveals that Morgan Stanley prepares a move from London to Frankfurt, for a thousand employees; Schauble on his part declares that, in case of leave, the British can not count on a trade agreement such as those of the EU with Switzerland and Norway.

It is obvious that the referendum has created considerable turbulence on the markets; financial assets are going down, sterling depreciates from January by 7% against the euro, gold rose in the same period by 20%, and, also thanks to the performance of the ECB's QE, ten years German bonds return came almost to zero (0.3%). Now 81% of German securities are “offering” a negative return. The spread on bunds compared to Italian and Spanish bonds (respectively 142 and 147 basis points) has widened, and even France was involved (39 basis points). But not for the increase in yields of the various countries, rather is the reduction of the German one. These are all signs of growth of uncertainty and flight to quality.

We are, however, only at the beginning of a period of accentuated turbulence. After a few days there will be elections in Spain, with the possibility of a majority Podemos-PSOE. In October there will be a constitutional referendum in Italy, proposed by Renzi government; in case of rejection, the prime minister has announced his resignation. In March 2017 there will be general elections in the Netherlands, shortly followed in France and Germany. All these elections take place in a climate of growing euro-scepticism. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, unfavourable citizens are now almost at par with those in favour, but in France they are at 61% (!), although, not surprisingly, the most unfavourable proportion is found in Greece (71%). This does not mean that Marine Le Pen will surely win the Presidency in France, but certainly she will go on the ballot, probably with Alain Juppé, a prominent politician of the traditional Gaullist right.

Moreover the Pew Centre has data for which 42% of citizens are in favour of a return of more power in the hands of national States facing an 19% that would like a strengthening of Community Government in  Bruxelles. No need to say that the effects on the economy will be those of a slowdown in investments, at a time when global growth tends to shrink.

The leftist political movements should focus their attention on a scenario that can lead to a perfect storm both on the financial side and on the political one. The public opinion trend observed in the polls has been called "sovereigns", and it is in fact ridden by extreme right dangerous forces. Who is it that said, "in our country there are seven million unemployed and seven million Jews?"

Ruggero Paladini

Economist - Professor of "Scienza delle Finanze" at University "La Sapienza" Roma; Member of the Economic Board of Insight -