Brits set for a real Brexit

Editorial | Mary Ma 6 Dec 2019

The people of Britain will probably elect a Conservative majority government when they vote Thursday - that is, if the opinion poll disasters of 2016 and 2017 do not recur.

For, on both occasions, polls pointed to a victory for Remainers in the 2016 Brexit referendum and a stronger grip of parliament by Theresa May's government in 2017. However, what eventuated turned out to be the exact opposites.

So, May's successor, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, should still be concerned, though all preelection polls have favored his party, giving him a lead of six to 10 percentage points ahead of Labor's Jeremy Corbyn.

The forex market has begun pricing in a Tory victory ahead of a vote that, if confirmed, would pave the way for a Johnson-style Brexit. The pound has strengthened about two percentage points against the Hong Kong dollar in the past week.

For Hongkongers with children studying at one of Britain's 100-plus universities or independent schools, and others who are looking to buy a second home over there, the best time to go in for the pound may be over - unless the vote again surprises with a hung parliament. If that is indeed the result, it will be little changed from the deadlock that ensued from the 2017 snap election which May unwisely opted for.

The consensus is that a consistent 10-point lead will hand Johnson a parliamentary majority, while any margin as small as six points will produce a hung assembly.

A parliamentary majority for Johnson will be welcomed by businesses. The Conservatives, traditionally identified as pro-economy, are expected to introduce policies that will stimulate private investments; Labor rightly or wrongly, is conventionally tied to welfarism.

Once the Brexit uncertainty shrouding the country has cleared, the pound's rise may see a pause as investors lock in profits after the vote.

But the rise is expected to continue later because the sterling, even at its current level, is still substantially lower than its average.

After leaving the European Union, London can negotiate free trade agreements independently with other countries. Each time a deal is announced, it will be viewed positively.

US President Donald Trump has claimed that he personally favors Brexit. Some eyes will be locked on London's trade talks with Washington soon after the election - should the vote create a Conservative majority government.

While it would be unimaginable to see the Anglo-US trade talks fail, a disagreement over America's access to Britain's national health services can be a stumbling block. As US demands for the public-health sector to be opened up to US private medicare providers, any move to privatize NHS will cause a huge uproar in Britain.

According to some surveys, the NHS is an election issue of great concern to voters.

London's status as an international financial center is unlikely to be disrupted due to the fact that English will still be the financial world's most important medium of communication.

No Brexit scenario could be worse than the deadlock suffered since 2016, a period that has seen many people finding they have no stomach forthe negative side of Brexit. Will the country's economy bottom out after the vote? It is probable.

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