Britain now finds itself locked in a full-blown constitutional crisis. As if lawmakers weren’t already engaged in a bloody fight over Brexit and the sovereignty of Parliament, the judiciary weighed in today to throw some fireworks and a gallon of petrol onto the fire.
Following weeks of intense legal debate, the Supreme Court today ruled (and by a landslide of 11 judges to zero) that prime minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament in September was “unlawful.” In their view, the decision had the effect of “frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”
So what does all this mean? Firstly, the legal decision allows MPs to flood back into the Commons again from tomorrow and debate legislation to further reduce the chances of a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
There’s a number of uncertainties over the direction of travel after that, however. Is a general election now inevitable, and if so, what will this mean for next month’s Brexit deadline? What will a fresh ballot mean for Parliament and how will this affect the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union later down the line?
More immediately though, the ruling casts more doubt over the future of Johnson as the UK’s leading political figure. Today’s decision at the Old Bailey has seen the chances on him resigning skyrocket, with Oddschecker noting that the odds of him falling on his sword by the end of 2019 have dropped to 10/11 from 6/4.
For the non-gamblers out there, the probability of the prime minister leaving his post by the end of the year has shot up to 52% from 22.2% prior to today’s ruling. In fact, so severe was the Supreme Court’s view of Johnson’s actions that some are predicting that he’ll resign in a matter of days rather than weeks.
It’s clear the clear-as-mud political picture here in the UK is likely to remain so for some time yet. But, fortunately, FTSE 100 investors can capitalise on this uncertainty in a variety of ways, for example by:
* Playing precious metals prices through Fresnillo. The mining giant’s been rising in recent weeks amid busy safe-haven buying of gold and silver. Judging by today’s price action — gold is now at three-week highs above $1,520 per ounce — more heady gains could be in the offing.
* Purchasing companies which report in non-sterling currencies. Whether that be Smith & Nephew and Ferguson, which account in dollars, for example, or IAG and Vodafone, which report in euros, these blue-chips are a great hedge against what could be more sterling weakness down the line.
* Buying classic safe-havens such as healthcare stocks (such as AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline), defence stocks (BAE Systems comes to mind), or utilities shares (like National Grid), ones with strong earnings visibility irrespective of geopolitical and macroeconomic developments.
* Investing in shares which generate no, or a small proportion, earnings from the UK, whether that be household goods manufacturers like Reckitt Benckiser, rental equipment play Ashtead, or banking colossus HSBC.
It might be tempting for investors to duck for cover in the current climate. But there’s still plenty of shares out there to help you and I make a packet in the near term and beyond. So keep investing, I say!
Royston Wild owns shares of Ashtead Group. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended GlaxoSmithKline. The Motley Fool UK has recommended AstraZeneca, Fresnillo, and HSBC Holdings. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.