With Boris Johnson taking a commanding lead in the first round of voting for the Conservative leadership, it seems more likely than not that the next UK Prime Minister will be an unequivocal Brexit supporter, which is bad news for Remainers who would like a second referendum.
It isn’t yet clear what approach a Johnson government would take to the EU question, and it may be that in an effort to bring the party together, he attempts a further negotiation ahead of the October 31 deadline for the UK to leave. But as the most prominent Leave campaigner in the 2016 referendum, having earned the backing of most Brexiteers in the party, Johnson’s elevation to Number Ten is likely to reduce the prospect of a Second Referendum.
One of the many complications of the Brexit debate has been the fact that while a majority of UK voters now favour remaining in the EU, by a small, but consistent margin, support for a Second Referendum is less secure. This is partly because it isn’t clear what question such a referendum would put to voters. The Labour Party have been widely criticised for treading carefully around the subject, though they have been inching towards a referendum on any Brexit deal which may, or may not, include a Remain option, while others have been more open about wanting a re-run of the 2016 vote; an option that has the potential to harden Leave opinion.
But, according to the betting markets, the issue is a little clearer cut. A couple of weeks back, the Second EU Referendum market showed the Yes option as a 7/2 outsider, but you can now back it at odds as high as 9/2 or even 5/1 in some places. Meanwhile, the price on the No option has shrunk even further and has dropped to 1/9 with a handful of bookmakers.
The big unknown here, besides the question over whether Johnson can seal the deal with Tory MPs and members and get the keys to Number Ten, is the possibility of a snap General Election before October 31. If Remain supporting parties were to win a decisive majority, then the odds on a Second Referendum could soon be heading in the opposite direction.