ECHO FX

DMSTFCTN

230616 2200: as polls close on Brexit referendum night, Nigel Farage, a former commodities broker and the face of Leave EU, concedes defeat.

230616 2252: in a Foreign Exchange market driven by a strong Remain sentiment, the network effect of Farage's concession pushes the Pound to a six month high.

240616 0528: the Pound reaches its lowest point in 30 years, losing 12% of its value against the Dollar.

ECHO FX is a 20 minute audiovisual performance by dmstfctn, replaying the events unfolding on June 23, 2016, the night of Brexit referendum.

As polls closed that night, Nigel Farage conceded a defeat he knew unlikely: Remain will edge it...

The echo of his concession shaped Foreign Exchange markets’ sentiment, immediately contributing to inflate the value of the Pound. Those markets did not foresee the outcome of the referendum and even priced in on a possible Remain win, with the Pound reaching a six month high before any official result announcement, fuelled by Farage’s concession.

As the referendum outcome became apparent later that night, the Foreign Exchange Pound market crashed in disbelief. Yet, a few traders with access to private polls could foresee the outcome and made millions by shorting the Pound.

A stack of values for the £ showing it crashing. A time at the top shows 00:17:56

ECHO FX replays the night’s events using Twitter and FX market data to generate sound and images, alongside footage of traders who shorted the Pound.

The piece was originally screened on the third anniversary week of the referendum night as part of Hyperdub's party series Ø (Corsica Studios, London, June 2019) and performed 48 hours before the United Kingdom left the European Union as part of CTM x transmediale festival (Berghain, Berlin, January 2020).

The week of 23-30 June, 2021 marks the fifth anniversary since referendum night and is the last week of the grace period, after which a person’s presence in the UK is no longer tolerated, unless they are UK citizen or have settled status.

As the consequences of Brexit become tangible, details of the events replayed in ECHO FX remain unclear, such as the legality of polling companies’ sale of private polls, or whether Farage, a former trader, had any personal dealings in this venture.

To mark this symbolic anniversary, ECHO FX will be streamed here on the evenings of June 23, 2021 - the fifth anniversary of the referendum, and June 30, 2021 - the last day of the grace period.

In fall 2021, Krisis Publishing will publish ECHO FX as an audiovisual digital release and printed publication, including contributions from dmstfctn, Obsolete Capitalism, and others.

ECHO FX focuses on referendum night as it offered a rare set of conditions whereby a usually complex financial market (GBPUSD, or the Pound market in US Dollars) exposed itself in a simplified state. The Pound market responded to a clearly defined stimulus: a 9-hour stream of 382 local voting results, announcing one by one whether to Leave or Remain in the EU, as decided by a majority.

Given the information contained in the vote, the outcome could have been predicted hours before the Pound market adjusted to it: 20-30 local voting results would suffice for a simple prediction algorithm.1 Such information would have been available in less than two hours from the first local result announcement.

1

Wu, K., Wheatley, S. and Sornette, D, Inefficiency and predictability in the Brexit Pound market: a natural experiment, The European Journal of Finance, (2020)

Although written with the benefit of hindsight, the algorithm developed therein demonstrates the inefficiency of the Pound market by comparing the probability of a Leave win it estimates based on the stream of voting results with the probability implied by the Pound market on referendum night

However, the Pound market took much longer to adjust to the outcome. Its inefficiency was behavioural, a matter of confirmation bias - traders did not want to believe that the UK was voting to leave the EU.

A line graph showing that betting markets modified their odds before the foreign exchange market reacted

While the largest betting market (Betfair)2 inverted their odds in favour of Brexit two hours after the first result announcement, reflecting the information contained in the vote, the Pound market continued to be driven by a Remain sentiment. Only when the referendum outcome became inevitable, over three hours after the first result announcement, the market finally crashed.

2

The figure above shows the Betfair and Pound markets for the period of the announcement of results.

For a comprehensive analysis see Auld, T. and Linton, O., The Behaviour of Betting and Currency Markets on the Night of the EU Referendum, (2017)

One of the key moments in ECHO FX focuses on the initial impact of Farage's conceding statement, a well-timed piece of disinformation which echoed through Twitter on Referendum night, acting as a counterpoint to what, with hindsight, was a predictable result. Farage’s concession spread with memetic speed, reduced to its most transmissible form: Remain will edge it.

With the stream of local results most clearly aggregated and announced by the BBC’s Twitter feed on the night, Twitter was the primary source for information. It wasn’t until the results start to trickle in two hours later that Farage’s echoes subsided.3 His words had been repeated at least 6000 times by then, with millions of views.

3

The figure underneath shows five affect components within the contents of Twitter at UK level and the GBPEUR for 48 hours, starting from June 23, 2016.

See Lansdall-Welfare, T., Dzogang, F. and Cristianini, N., Change-point Analysis of the Public Mood in UK Twitter during the Brexit Referendum (2016)

Line graphs showing relationship between the exchange rate and negative affect, anger, anxiety and sadness as expressed on twitter

On the days leading to the referendum some polling companies had undertaken private in-depth polls that showed a likely Leave win. As news outlets were sold polls pointing to a Remain win, confirming the Pound market’s bias even before Farage’s concession, some London City traders were sold the in-depth private polls.

Perhaps a case of illegal sale, that information was rendered as capital as traders bet against the falling value of the Pound before the market adjusted to the referendum outcome, effectively shorting the Pound to make huge profits.

The corner of a trader's offices on Queen Street in London. Text reads 'A well timed echo on foreign exchange markets', the time shown is 22:00.