Brexit Bulletin: Double Blow

  • Defence Secretary Fallon quits as sexual-harassment scandal swirls
  • Parliament pushes prime minister to release Brexit impact studies
UBS's Wraith Sees Brexit Headwind Signs in U.K. Economy

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In the space of 24 hours, Theresa May suffered two setbacks she can ill afford.

As the sexual-harassment scandal engulfed both main parties, May’s trusted Defence Secretary Michael Fallon quit her government saying his past behavior has fallen short. May loses a veteran minister so often deployed to defend Tory policies at moments of crisis, and the Tories lose someone who has long been considered a potential caretaker prime minister if May fell. 

Her weakness was also underscored late on Wednesday when lawmakers passed a motion to force the government to release secret studies on the impact of Brexit on the British economy.

Michael Fallon.
Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

With the clock ticking down to Brexit – the government has six weeks to come up with an offer to Europe on the politically toxic divorce bill – Fallon’s resignation has shifted the focus to whether she can hold her government together.

“The key question is whether Fallon is the first of many,” said Tim Bale, who teaches politics at Queen Mary University of London. “The PM might be able to cope with losing a couple more colleagues – especially if they’re not high-profile cabinet ministers. But if a trickle becomes a flood, and if there’s any sense in which she knew about some of this stuff but didn’t act on it, that’s when things could get really tricky for Mrs. May.”

May is already so weakened that she’s struggling to develop a Brexit strategy she can get through Parliament, Bloomberg’s Robert Hutton reports, and the scandal threatens to undermine her further even if she’s been proactive in seeking cross-party measures to clamp down on bad behavior.

In Parliament, the opposition Labour Party has wanted the 58 studies released for months and has the support of some Tories, Bloomberg’s Alex Morales writes. The unanimous vote in the House of Commons followed the Tories’ decision not to oppose the motion brought by Labour. It’s the latest in a succession of motions on which the Tories have declined to vote rather than risk defeat. It’s still not clear if the government will actually release the documents (or a redacted version of them) although Speaker John Bercow indicated that the motion – which used a little known legislative device – was binding.

For the latest update from Westminster, tune in for Brexit Secretary David Davis in the House of Commons at 9:30 a.m U.K. time.

And visit our special report page for full coverage of all the latest on Brexit.

Brexit Latest

Funding Probe | Arron Banks, the entrepreneur who funded campaigns for Britain to leave the European Union, is being investigated by the U.K. Electoral Commission after calls for a probe into whether so-called “dark money” played a role in the referendum. Banks described the allegations as “nonsense” and said the Electoral Commission was politically influenced.

Deutsche’s Digs | Deutsche Bank is looking for office space in Frankfurt for up to 1,600 workers as it plans for life after Brexit, two people with knowledge of the search said.

Nuclear Brexit | There is no upside to Britain withdrawing from the European Union’s Euratom treaty, according to four nuclear industry insiders quizzed by a cross-party panel of lawmakers on Wednesday.

Judges Puzzled | In its current form, the U.K.’s withdrawal bill will put British courts in the unusual position of making more and more policy decisions after Brexit, the country’s former top judge told lawmakers.

Chlorinated Chicken | The issue of whether chlorinated chicken should be allowed on British dinner tables came is back on the agenda. Trade Secretary Liam Fox defiantly told lawmakers there are “no health reasons” for consumers not to eat a product that has become the symbolic price of a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. Others weighed in too, including Michael Gove, the pro-Brexit Environment Minister, who earlier had been extolling the virtues of organic farming.

On the Markets | Politics takes a back seat for investors as all eyes are on the Bank of England, which is expected to announce its first rate hike in more than a decade on Thursday. Bloomberg’s Fergal O’Brien has run the rule over what might happen and what it could mean

And Finally...

We’re often asked whether Brexit could be reversed – could there be a second referendum and could Britain change its mind? 

So we’ve thought through some of the hypothetical scenarios that could lead to an about-turn. Unlikely? Perhaps. But the last couple of years have taught us to expect surprises. 

We’ve mapped out three scenarios, all of which start with May’s exit from the scene.

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