Friday, 18 January 2019

One Million Pageviews for the Blog!

Well, here we are...1 million people have visited the blog over the past 6 years...whodathoughtit! If I had £1 for each visit I would be doing well...ha ha.

During this period I have posted a total of 447 articles which attracted over 1,000 comments.


Evolving Strategy

Looking back, it is striking just how much my investing journey has moved around. Partly this has been influenced by reflecting on the input of readers, partly from changing circumstances such as the recent transition to State pension and also a fair share of poor decisions resulting from good old irrational thinking.

In the early days, my investing strategy was all about generating natural income from a mix of high-yielding UK shares and a basket of mainly UK-focussed investment trusts. My target income was 4% of my combined SIPP and ISA investments with the intention to reinvest any surplus.

This had worked just fine since I decided to move to early retirement in 2008 at age 55 yrs. At some point in 2014/15 I was beginning to take a closer look at this strategy and came to the conclusion that the focus on high income shares and trusts was limiting my investing horizon. For example, I had ignored the option of low cost global index funds such as Vanguard Lifestrategy because the yield was only 1.4%.

By this time I realised that maintaining a portfolio of 20+ individual shares was probably more trouble than it was worth and so began the process of off-loading them gradually in favour of my global index funds. As I said in this review of strategy post -  

"Individual shares have been interesting but they are volatile and I have not noticed any greater return to my portfolio for the additional risk so I will wind down the rest of my shares portfolio in the coming months and move the proceeds into collectives".

Today, I am looking to preserve what I have accumulated with my core of multi-asset global index funds and also look to the future with some of my technology and 'green' investments.

Books

Of course, the blog has been a useful platform to showcase my books. The first was "DIY Introduction to Personal Finance" self published in February 2012, a year before I started this blog. It was followed by "DIY Pensions" which is by far the most purchased title with just over 60% of sales (ebook & paperback combined), then "DIY Income" in 2014 and finally my second most popular seller "DIY Simple Investing" published in 2015 which accounts for 20% of the total.

I hope I can shed a little light on the mysteries of the self-directed investing process and help readers to take more responsibility for their future financial well-being.



Popular Articles

The main purpose of starting the blog was to keep a journal of my investing journey. Some of the articles are obviously more interesting to readers than others. The ones that have attracted most attention are usually when they are mentioned in a link by Monevator!

Here are some of the more popular - in no particular order :

In April 2015, I had been thinking about a more globally diverse strategy and wrote "VanguardLifestrategy - A One-Stop Solution". This subsequently morphed into the concept of "DIY Simple Investing" and for which I wrote this guest post on Monevator.

The annual updates on progress with my self-managed drawdown SIPP are popular but the nuts and bolts of how to work out the amount required for a decent retirement in early 2017 has proved the most popular of all the pension-related articles.(link here)

Asset allocation is an important aspect of the investing process. The better returns will most likely come from holding investments over many years so it's important for the DIY investor to find a strategy which will enable him/her to stay in the game for the long term, particularly during periods of volatility as we have experienced in recent months. This revised article on the subject was written in May 2016.

Just a few of the most read articles over the years - more are listed under the 'popular posts' tab above.

So, I am about to enter my 7th year with the blog. I'm not sure if I will manage to get to two million pageviews but will carry on a while longer. When I started out there were not too many investing bloggers around - Monevator and Retirement Investing Today spring to mind from the UK. Today there are lots more which is good to see.

Many thanks to all the people out there who dip in from time to time to share the journey and especially for many of the comment which have given me much food for thought as well as an opportunity to reflect on many of the mistakes I have made along the way.



Finally, an apology to those who really do not care to read about Brexit or Climate Change. Hopefully, the former can be put to bed before very much longer (?) but I have five grandchildren so the latter is likely to increasingly influence my thinking and also my investing decisions.

It's therefore appropriate to finish with a quote from Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General, Sept 2018

"Nothing less than our future and the fate of humankind depends on how we rise to the climate challenge"

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Portfolio Review - End 2018


Well time marches on relentlessly and this is now my 6th end of year review since starting my blog in 2013.

It's been quite a year...Brexit, Trump, climate change, Novichok, plastic in our seas, cave rescue in Thailand, the ups and downs of the markets and me officially becoming a pensioner...I've been practicing rattling my walking stick along the public railings...

Now with my monthly flow of pension from the DWP, my focus is changing as I no longer need my portfolio to generate income. The revised plan will now re-focus on growth. I was particularly intrigued by some research by Bessembinder which seems to suggest the outperformance of equities over bonds is generated by just 4% of the market and over half of all equities returned less than government bonds over a 90 year period. (Article from June)

Climate Change

In October, I was reminded of the dire threats to the environment with the latest IPCC report calling for a limit of 1.5C on global warming. 

However unsatisfactory the Brexit outcome might be, it is nothing of consequence compared to the devastating effects of global warming. Yes, many will have enjoyed the long hot Summer this year...4 months of t-shirt and shorts weather from May to September.. but at the same time they cannot have missed the news of extensive wildfires, floods, hurricanes and droughts around the globe.

The past 4 years have been the hottest on record and the Met Office have forecast temperatures in the UK could be 4 degrees warmer on average by 2070.

At the COP24 conference in Poland earlier this month, Sir David Attenborough said:
"Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale... our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."


A week previous we had a brief response on the subject from President Trump:

"I don't believe it"

The patterns seem to get more severe and unpredictable each passing year and I fear the movers and shakers are showing little concern and sleepwalking into the abyss. How many more warnings do the global community require before we start to take this issue seriously?



I am not sure why this is not yet breaking through. Maybe as a species we are unable to translate the warnings into how we are likely to be impacted but we do make long term plans - marriage, saving for house purchase, bringing up our children, saving for retirement. However there are many positive signs and I have been encouraged by the direct actions of Extinction Rebellion in recent months and wish them well in their efforts to raise more awareness and move this issue up the political agenda.

As I said in one of the subsequent posts, if I become aware of a threat I have a responsibility to do something. At that time I decided to make some adjustments to my portfolio to bring on board a few ethical/green funds which I believe are attempting to address some of the big issues raised by climate change.

I think my lifestyle is fairly low impact - for the UK at least - and registers 6.8 tonnes of annual carbon emissions on the WWF scale - lower than the UK average and could do a bit better - but I want to do more to align my investments. The UN has warned that today's generation are the last that can prevent a catastrophic warming as well as the first to be suffering from early impacts. There are one billion people from developing countries who are least responsible for climate change but are most vulnerable to its effects.

This surely is the most important issue facing the global community.

Brexit

What can I say? This omni-shambles was the subject of a couple of lengthy posts - Brexit Fudge in July and Another Fine Mess Olly in November.

I imagine the feeling of betrayal will be long-lasting if MPs fail to deliver on Brexit but we still have a little time. The deliberations on the deal will resume on 9th January with a vote the following week. I imagine in the absence of any significant changes, that the deal will be rejected and we are then left with the prospects of some sort of managed no deal or another referendum or revoking Article 50. My money is on the no deal option but after the past year, absolutely nothing this government came up with would surprise me.


Sport

As long-term readers will know, I am a big follower of sport and this has been a vintage year. The highlight for me was the 5th test at the Oval and the retirement of England cricket legend Sir Alastair Cook. He scored a century in his final innings to round off a wonderful career which included 33 test match centuries and over 12,000 runs at an average of 45.4.

In the same match, Jimmy Anderson overtook Glen McGrath to become the leading fast-bowler wicket taker of all time.

Against all predictions England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in Russia having won a penalty shoot-out along the way. The country was starting to believe "It's Coming Home..." sadly they couldn't quite get past Croatia losing in extra time. My consolation was that I had placed money on France at the start of the tournament.



In the world of cycling, Geraint Thomas OBE was inspirational winning the Tour De France and I was delighted to see him secure his SPOTY award last week. On the track, I was saddened to hear that double Olympic champion Kristina Vogel suffered a horrific crash in training which severed her spinal chord and left her paralysed. She talked about this and coming to terms with her new situation in this interview which I found very moving.

Investments

It was all going so well until October but the sharp downturn over the past few weeks has seen my portfolio return a loss for the year. This is not unexpected, I have been half expecting the downturn for some time...it's what the markets do. Now is a good time to evaluate asset allocation!

I decided to review my whole investing strategy as my state pension kicked in earlier this year. I no longer require my investments for income and have therefore moved towards growth and also to increase my global index funds. I have also moved a portion of my portfolio into 'green' investments and plan to increase this over the coming year.

My Allocation end December 2018
(click to enlarge)

Over the year I have therefore replaced most of my income-generating funds. However for the time being I still hold on to a few of the original investment trusts - Aberforth Smaller Companies, City of London and Finsbury Growth and Income.

In August the BofE raised interest rates to 0.75%...the highest level since 2009. My saving rate with the Coventry was increased by 0.15% to 1.4% which is still not great and below the current rate of inflation. Had I relied solely on savings interest for the past decade my standard of living would have been severely compromised and I doubt if I could have afforded to retire early.


Portfolio Returns

I have just completed a review of my actual investment portfolios - sipp flexi drawdown and ISAs - for the full year to 28th December.

The FTSE 100 started 2018 at 7,688 - and has gradually declined to finish the year down 954 points closing at 6,734 or -12.4% - if we add back in say a further 3.8% for dividends paid, this will give a ballpark total return figure of -8.6% for the full year. The second line FTSE 250 has lost 13.5% and the FTSE All Share index is down -9.5% for the year.

My Vanguard Lifestrategy 60 fund is a diverse mix of global equities and bonds and provide a good benchmark for a balanced global portfolio. The fund is down -3.0% over the past year.


Investment Trusts & Funds

Over the 12 month period, I purchased a further holding in Scottish Mortgage for my ISA. I have also added Mid Wynd, Polar Cap Technology and Edinburgh Worldwide. I have also added Impax Env. Markets, newly launched Smithson, Baillie Gifford Managed fund and also their Positive Change fund.

The better returns for the year came from Finsbury Growth & Income (again) up 0.2%, Capital Gearing up 3.4% and the best performer Scottish Mortgage +4.9%. The trusts that has struggled for me this past year have been Aberforth Smaller -10%, City of London -8.2% and Tritax Big Box -6.7%.

The total return for my basket of trusts over the year was -3.5%.


Index Funds

Over the past year I have added VLS 60 to my new ISA with Vanguard Investor, also HSBC Global Strategy and Baillie Gifford Managed.

The contribution from my index collectives has seen a modest fall over the year with a total return of -1.6%.


Fixed Interest

As ever, the fixed interest sector has provided a steady and predictable income of 5.1% however the capital has taken a hit with a sharp decline of 15% for my Lloyds Preference shares. The total return is -3.1% for the year. 

Most of my income generating FI funds are no longer required and have been sold.


The Complete Basket

As a whole, the portfolio has delivered a total return of -2.7% over the past  year. Here's my portfolio returns covering the past decade since the big crash of 2008. 

2009 37.2%
2010   9.9%
2011  -3.0%
2012 15.5%
2013 13.3%, 
2014   5.4%, 
2015   2.7%  
2016 11.4%
2017 11.3%
2018  -2.7%
 
(click to enlarge)

A sum of £1,000 at the start of 2009 has grown to £2,500 and an average annualised return over the past 10 years of 9.6%. This has enabled me to take my 4% income each year since moving to early retirement in 2008 and leaving some held back to build reserves. Of course, the figures are enhanced by the large bounce in returns for 2009 following the market turmoil of late 2008 and early 2009

Most Popular Posts


The most popular this year have been:

1. Sipp Drawdown Yr 6 Update
2. Vanguard LS 60 - Year 3 Update
4. Investing for Grandchildren
5. Equities Outperform Bonds
6. Brexit Fudge


Conclusion

In these times of low interest rates and corresponding low returns from cash deposits, for a little more risk, an average annualised return of almost 10% over the past decade is for me very acceptable. Return on my investments have been positive in 8 of the past 10 years and fairly modest reductions for the 2 down years.

The move to index funds provides more global diversity and in particular the equity/bond balance provided by the LS funds provides less volatility and more stability. This core stability provides a little more freedom to take on board a little more risk with my tech funds such as Scottish Mortgage and Mid Wynd and also introduce some investments which focus on the environment.

I am gravitating towards an allocation which I hope will continue to provide a reasonable level of return without too much volatility. I will continue to add to my 'green' section of the portfolio when I get my head around the challenges of climate change but I remain mindful of the words of Ben Graham 'The investors chief problem...even his worst enemy...is likely to be himself'.

Be patient, stay in the game and keep it simple....

Finally, thanks to all for dropping by during the past year and wishing everyone all good things in 2019 - especially good health. I certainly think it's going to be interesting.

As always, if you keep track of portfolio returns, feel free to leave a comment and share with others how your investments have fared over the past year.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Finsbury G & I Trust - Final Results

I have held FGT in my ISA for the past 7 years. It continues to deliver year after year and remains one of the top UK investment trusts in terms of net asset value and share price performance over five and ten years, its returns far outstripping those of the FTSE All-Share index. 

A sum of £1,000 invested 10 yrs ago would now be worth £5,014 compared to a total return of £2,385 from the benchmark FTSE All Share index.

Its aim is capital appreciation and income combined, with a total return in excess of the FTSE All-Share.

Long standing manager Nick Train’s approach is based on that of Warren Buffett’s and involves building a concentrated portfolio of “quality” companies that have strong brands and/or powerful market franchises.

The characteristics that define a quality company for Lindsell Train are:


·                     durability – companies that can prosper through business cycles for many years to come;
·                     high return on equity – companies with the ability to grow earnings year-in, year-out are favoured over those with rapid short term growth, but uncertain long term prospects; and
·                     low capital intensity/high free cash flow generation – companies that do not have to make heavy balance sheet investment to generate earnings growth.


He holds shares for the long term regardless of short-term volatility, aiming for them to double or more in value over time. This results in extremely low portfolio turnover, which saves on transaction costs. The trust's total expense ratio remains reasonably low at just under 0.7%.

Results

The trust has this week announced 
results for the full year to 30th Sept 2018 (link via Investegate). Share price total return is 13.2% compared to 5.9% return for the FTSE All Share.

5 Yr Performance -v- FTSE All Share
(click to enlarge)

Top five portfolio holdings are: Diageo 10.0%, Relx 9.8%, Unilever 9.5%, Hargreaves Lansdown 9.2% and London Stock Exchange 8.6%.

Over the past year the dividend has increased by a respectable 7.7% to 15.3p (2017 14.2p). Revenues were 16.5p (2017 15.8p) and therefore there is a surplus after accounting for payments of dividends which will further bolster the dividend reserves.

It is worth noting that Nick Train has continued to add to his personal share holding in the Company - currently just over 2 million - which represents the whole of his personal investment in UK equity and is a significant portion of his total assets. Now that's called having skin in the game.

Commenting on the results, manager Train said  

"I have been a regular buyer of FGT shares for myself and my family through 2018. I have been so because I regard the portfolio as a store of value that I expect will deliver much more growth and income. As a shareholder I was delighted by the dividend increase your board was able to announce this year, up nearly 8% to 15.3p. That’s an increase driven by the underlying dividend growth of the companies in the portfolio, many of which have long and proud histories of dividend growth – which we are not expecting to end any time soon. 
I can’t help thinking back to the first dividend FGT paid under Lindsell Train’s stewardship, back in 2001, of 3.2p. From 3.2p to 15.3p is a compound rate of dividend growth of c9.5% per annum over 17 years. It will take all kinds of luck for me still to be reporting to you in 2035 – although I can dream – and even more luck and good judgement will be required to maintain a compound dividend growth rate of nearly 10% over the next 17 years. But if all these did come to pass I’m sure that all shareholders will be well satisfied".

The shares are currently trading at 760p and although many of my income trusts have been sold this past year in line with my revised strategy, this trust is more focussed on growth and given its track record I am happy to continue holding the shares in my portfolio for the coming year and beyond.

As ever, this article is merely a record of my personal investment decisions and should not be regarded as an endorsement or recommendation - always DYOR!

Feel free to leave a comment below if you hold this investment trust in your portfolio.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Another Fine Mess Olly!

[Warning...this is a lengthy article about Brexit and the withdrawal agreement. It is not about investing so please feel free to click on to your next site if you are fed up of Brexit].

The EU heads gathered today to sign off on the proposed Brexit deal hammered out over the past two years. All I would say is the whole process has become an omni-shambles of the highest order.

It got off to a promising start when Mrs May gave her LancasterHouse speech which set out the Governments priorities for the Brexit negotiations

The objectives were clear and well received - take back control of our laws, controls over immigration and an end to freedom of movement, leave the single market, freedom to strike our own trade deals and a smooth and orderly transition which would entail a broad agreement on our future partnership by the end of March 2019.

This was January 2017 and it seems it has been downhill since then.

Civil Servants

(I've printed this image on my punchbag...it helps a little)
Of course, much of the day to day negotiations have been conducted by our civil servants. Mrs May appointed Olly Robbins as her chief negotiator. At the start he was head of DExEU but later transferred over to the Cabinet Office to work more closely with the PM. Robbins was well known to the PM as he was a senior civil servant in charge of immigration when Mrs May was at the Home Office. Robbins is her closest confidante on Brexit and the person she most relies upon so he enjoys the most powerful position.

Of course he is supposed to be politically neutral but he was president of the Oxford Reform Club which promotes a federal European Union and is therefore a committed Europhile which puts into question just how impartial he could be in the role of negotiations to leave.

He has been assisted by Sir Tim Barrow who took over following the resignation of Sir Ivan Rogers who accused the government of muddled thinking

For the EU, Sabine Wayand has done much of the hard work as deputy to Michel Barnier. She has 25 years experience in trade negotiations and is well acquainted with the UK having studied at Cambridge in the 1980s



Some people suggest the civil servants led by arch remainer Robbins have been working hard to stitch up the Brexit process by skillful manipulation to end up with a last minute 'deal' which is being sold as delivering what we voted for but in reality will mean very little changes. To some it appears that Robbins has been gradually softening up the PM by willingly accepting the EU lines and persuading Mrs May we have little alternative. Of course he would be pushing lines upon which another remainer would not need much persuading.

The NI Backstop

One of the biggest obstacles to progress has been finding a solution on how to avoid customs checks and a hard border between Ireland which will remain in the EU. Obviously whilst the UK has been a member it has not been a problem but now we are proposing to leave the customs union and single market, the two parts of Ireland could have different taxes, tariffs and regulations which would need to be checked at the border.

In 2017, in order to make some progress, both sides agreed to the backstop which means if no solution can be agreed during the future trade negotiations after we leave, then NI would remain in the EU customs union and parts of the single market and would therefore be treated very differently to the rest of the UK. 

Scotland who wish to remain in the EU could argue that if it applies to NI why not them? This could be very damaging for the unity of the UK. Obviously the DUP are opposed to any measures which treat NI differently and their leader says they will  vote against the current deal.

The WA if accepted, would invoke the NI Backstop Protocol which runs to 175 pages (of the 585) and basically ensures that if no agreement is reached during the transition period (or two year extension), then the whole UK stays in the EU customs union and subjects NI to a raft of single market directives and regulations. If it comes into play we have no way to exit without the consent of the EU so they have a veto. President Macron has indicated he will use the threat of the backstop to get a good deal on fishing and other countries will use this leverage to get what they want in the future negotiations.

We are effectively prevented from striking trade deals around the world whilst the EU hold all the aces in the future trade negotiations knowing that if we do not agree, they maintain access to the UK markets whist keeping us tied to the EU.
We could end up being locked in for many years to come.

The future relationship document (not legally binding) offers warm assurances that both sides are 'determined to replace the backstop' but I fear the EU would say anything to get the WA agreement in place.


The Withdrawal Agreement

On 15th November after much speculation that it was getting too late to reach an agreement...ta daa...the final draft of the WA is presented to No 10 and there is an emergency cabinet meeting called to ensure they are all on board. Bear in mind this is a document stretching to 585 pages of complex legalese text equivalent to reading 'War & Peace'. Ordinary people are not intended to read these documents. I am sure this was intended - keep it complex and deliver at very last minute...

The important point is that if we accept it then we have no way out...we will be stuck with it unless the EU agree to a replacement agreement...there will be no get out clause or cooling off period.

The basic proposals include hand over the £39bn to cover the transition period to end 2020 which may be extended to 2022 without knowing what, if any, trade arrangements will be agreed. Stay in custom union until new agreement on trade is reached failing which we enter the 'backstop' arrangement which ties us into the CU indefinitely unless a 'joint committee' sets us free. Being in a customs union means we continue to pay the EU an additional £30bn for the extra two years and also prevents us from striking our independent trade deals with non-EU countries

NI would be treated differently to the rest of the UK and would be more closely aligned to Dublin rather than London.

The ECJ has jurisdiction over the withdrawal agreement including transition period(s), the potentially permanent backstop arrangement as well as the financial settlement

The deal would undermine and seriously compromise the integrity and sovereignty of the UK and is a far cry from what was set out at Lancaster House. If the Commons vote for the deal, it will bind us to the EU for an indeterminate period, will remove any independent control and hand it to a 'Joint Committee' who have exclusive jurisdiction to implement all aspects of the WA for up to four years after the end of the implementation period and settle any disputes. Any unresolved matters can only be resolved by the ECJ. This JC will alone decide on any extension to the transition period.

Our PM talks about taking back control of our laws and sovereignty...dream on!

The Future Agreement

First question...why has it taken over 2 years to thrash out the WA and just a week to sort out the future relationship?

It looks like all our obligations, including payment of £39bn and probably a further £30bn due if we enter an extended transition, are nailed down in the 585 page legally enforceable WA whilst all the potential benefits of our future trading arrangements are set out in this 26 page framework document... which is not binding and has no legal standing whatsoever.

I cannot for the life of me understand why this part of the process has to be left until after we have left on 29th March. How on earth are we supposed to take a view on the withdrawal agreement before we actually have some degree of certainty what our future relationship will be like? This means our MPs are being asked to vote on a 'deal' with only the sketchiest of understandings of the future set out in this political declaration...which is not binding and the EU could easily backtrack on.

The PM must have agreed to go along with this arrangement at the outset so I guess she must take responsibility. This has to be a serious mistake but I have not read much commentary so far.

The framework is full of aspirational words and could be interpreted as giving every party some of what they require. It aims for a future agreement which balances rights and obligations. The more we want to maintain close ties with the EU, the more we will need to accept their rules and submit to the EU courts in the event of disputes.

Importantly, it contains a commitment from both sides to 'build and improve upon the single customs territory' provided for in the WA. This is not of course binding but the EU would have no moral duty to agree a trade deal which permits the UK freedom to pursue its independent trade policy with the rest of the world.

The aim is to start negotiations after we formally leave on 29th March 2019 and hopefully enter a formal agreement by the end of the transition period end 2020. We have the option to extend the transition period by two years to end 2022 (which takes us after the next election in May 2022). If the future relationship is still not agreed then the backstop arrangements kick in which keep us in the CU and tied to the EU without the ability to unilaterally pull out.

This gives the EU a very clear advantage throughout the negotiations.

I think there is no doubt the establishment have deliberately set out to undermine the Brexit process and appear to have succeeded. Having a concerted fear campaign before the referendum vote in 2016 which most people treated with contempt, our Wesminster elite have ramped up the fear factor for no deal to maximum so our politicians are now facing a vote on whether to accept the deal presented by May & Robbins without any clear promises on the future trade agreement or reject the deal which may result in leaving on WTO rules.

To be honest, I would rather take my chances with a clean break and WTO rather than remaining tied to the EU with no say in future policies. The current deal offers the worst possible solution - legal obligation to pay £39bn, not out of the EU, continue to pay more in, split off NI, subjected to EU courts and unable to strike our own trade deals.

The establishment offered the people a vote and when it did not turn out the way they wanted, they have worked hard to find a way to keep the UK so closely aligned that it will feel no different to when we were still a member.


Conclusion

I am left wondering how we could possibly get things so wrong. What do we have after two and a half years? May and Robbins have led everyone along the proverbial garden path and here we are with no time left having to decide on a crap deal which pleases neither leave or remain supporters. For the EU it would be a tremendous outcome.


To be honest, I would not be surprised if Robbins deliberately made the deal so bad that nobody in their right mind could possibly accept it and calculated this would eventually result in a second referendum and the people voting to remain after all...far fetched possibly, but...

The big mistake was allowing a staunch europhile like Robbins to take charge of negotiations...that said, I guess there are probably not many top civil servants who voted leave...

This feels embarrasing and humiliating. We could have said to the EU after June 2016  'Look, we are leaving the EU however we really would like a free trade deal and we are sure you probably would too so lets see what can be agreed. If we cannot find agreement then we will arrange to leave on WTO rules'.  The basics could have been established in a couple of months.

I honestly cannot believe our MPs could vote this through...they have set aside 5 days for the debate culminating in the big vote on Tuesday 11th December. This is not so much a bad deal more an atrocious deal. The PM needs 318 votes to get it over the line - a significant number of her backbenchers say they will vote against, the DUP, Labour benches and SNP so my best guess is she will be at least 70 short.

If they vote down the deal, which surely they must do, the default position is that we leave on 29th March on WTO rules. However, they also want to avoid a no deal so they may consider another vote which is made conditional on the outcome of a referendum. Parliament could also ask the EU to postpone this date whilst we had another general election.

The proposed deal would be nothing short of capitulation and surely few people - whether remain or leave - believe Mrs May when she says we have delivered on Brexit, taken back control of our borders, our laws and money, free to negotiate our own trade deals around the world.

We have wasted the past 18 months getting to this point and, as I said in July following Chequers, I honestly cannot see a good outcome from where we are now. We are facing a political and constitutional crisis and our PM and her cabinet colleagues along with senior civil servants should hang their heads in shame (but of course they won't). There will no doubt be inevitable unintended consequences flowing from this betrayal from those in many parts of the country who will be left once again feeling alienated, let down and ignored.

This feels like the end of the beginning - it will run and run...aaagghhh...

Personally, I don't much care anymore - I probably should have known better but feel badly let down by our politicians and the way I am feeling at present, will not take part in future elections. It seems whoever you vote for, the political elites always have their way. It was probably ever thus....

I am sure if you have read this article you probably have a view so feel free to leave a comment below. Should we go along with the deal to bring the uncertainty to an end? What should happen if MPs vote against the deal?