What today's Brexit news means for investment strategies

What today's Brexit news means for investment strategies

Prime minister Theresa May today (February 26) told MPs they will have the chance to vote on a no-deal Brexit or a short extension to Article 50.

If Mrs May can't geta Brexit deal approved before the UK is due to exit the European Union on March 29, a motion will be tabled asking MPs if they back leaving the EU without a deal.

If this motion is rejected, MPs would then vote on whether there should be a "short-term, limited extension" to Article 50 and a delay to Brexit. 

So, what does this mean for positioning investment portfolios and the prospects for the pound?

Thomas Clarke, a portfolio manager on William Blair's Dynamic Allocation Strategies team, said it was vital to understand game theory to correctly position investment portfolios for Brexit.

He said: "In mid-January, we learned—to nobody's surprise—that the Brexit agreement devised between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) last year cannot pass UK parliament. And without passing parliament, it can't proceed.

"Now the UK wants to change the deal, and the EU is refusing. This situation is a prime example of where we can apply game theory, which we use as a framework to analyse investment opportunities.

"Our game theory approach to geopolitics helps us better understand these types of situations so we don't reflexively do what conventional wisdom holds, which is to always move to the sidelines when there's heightened risk."

Reflecting on the Irish backstop, Mr Clarke said it doesn't look very competent of the UK to spend two years negotiating a deal, then reveal that deal won't work at home - but that's exactly what it has done.

The Irish backstop is a plan that sets out what will happen if, come 2020 (the end of the withdrawal transition period), there is no agreement on how to carry on trade between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Irish Republic, which is part of the European Union.

Right now, the Brexit withdrawal deal specifies that if there is no agreement on Northern Ireland/EU trade in 2020, Northern Ireland actually would remain in the single EU market until both the UK and EU agree to end it.

Fearing that this backstop could last in perpetuity, the UK is trying to change the deal with 32 days remaining on the clock.

Mr Clarke said: "In a game theory framework, when you're negotiating in an attempt to get the other side to agree to your demands, you need a threat strategy.

"Your optimal threat strategy is to reveal what you will do if the other side says no. That is supposed to motivate the other side to say 'yes' to your demands. 'If you do not agree with X, then we will do Y.'

"In this case, the implicit threat of both players (the UK and the EU)—what they will do if the bargaining breaks down and everyone walks away from the table—is that there will be no deal.