What Are The Latest Odds on a United Ireland?
The UK’s attempt to rip up the Brexit deal agreed with the EU and replace it with a fresh trade agreement over the border in Ireland has caused the odds of a United Ireland referendum taking place within the next two years to collapse.
Westminster has demanded the EU renegotiate the Northern Ireland protocol just seven months after the deal was agreed between the two parties after years of negotiations.
The Northern Ireland protocol aims to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland that was a fundamental aspect of the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the island.
Instead, checks on goods are being carried out at Northern Irish ports heading to mainland Great Britain.
The EU are concerned no checks would effectively open a backdoor for the UK to enter its trading bloc via Ireland and therefore its single market of 450 million people.
The bloc has since rejected Boris Johnson’s call to renegotiate the deal he signed off on in December 2020, and warned the UK to respect the “international legal obligations” it had agreed to.
United Ireland Odds Tumble
The UK has yet to trigger Article 16, the mechanism by which would effectively scrap the accord, but there are growing calls among Brexiteers to roll the dice.
All this has caused tensions in Northern Ireland to increase further – and bookmakers who offer politics betting are taking note.
Betfair, for instance, have seen their odds on a vote on Irish reunification by 2024 come in from 6/1 to just 2/1. That suggests a 33% chance that a referendum will be held in the near future.
Irish unification is rarely out of the headlines in both Ireland and the UK. Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou MacDonald recently said preparation for twin referendums on both sides of the border should begin, with a “critical” decade coming for republicans.
Wrangling over Brexit has dogged Northern Irish politics ever since the referendum vote in 2016. Stormont collapsed for three years over power-sharing issues that haven’t yet been fully resolved.
Recent days have seen supermarkets warn of rising costs in Northern Ireland due to the protocol. The next phase of trade checks is imminent, which has caused fears of food inflation in the country.
In an attempt to ease tensions, the EU has offered what is described as a veterinary agreement, where around 80% of checks across the Irish Sea would be abandoned so long as the UK aligned with the EU’s rulebook over goods.
The UK, in response, has branded that suggestion an inflexible approach and is pushing for fewer checks but without realignment.
This may well become a game of who blinks first, but it’s clear online betting sites believe that the eventual outcome of this wrangling is a vote on unification.
Back in January in the early days after the trade agreement was signed, a referendum on a United Ireland was priced at 10/1 (9.1% probability).
In seven months, that has changed dramatically.
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