On Thursday Boris Johnson threw down the gauntlet with a call for the total abolition of the backstop. He also said the Government was “turbocharging” preparations for a no-deal break on Oct 31 if the EU refused to engage.
The Telegraph asks Will the EU blink first as pressure builds towards ‘no deal’?
At a stroke, Mr Johnson appeared to sweep away the camp, nominally led by the Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox, that still believed that with a tweak – perhaps a time-limit or a unilateral exit-mechanism – the backstop could be rendered acceptable.
Not only did he announce the Irish backstop must be abolished, but he went further, turning the tables to set conditions for any future talks with the European Union.
EU diplomats and officials in Brussels have been clear that this will not happen, even if that puts the UK and EU on a collision course towards ‘no deal’ over the apparently intractable problem of the Irish border.
It is a wearingly familiar argument. Mr Johnson contends that the entire UK should be able to leave the EU customs union and single market while preserving a status quo border in Ireland.
The question now, is who will blink first as pressure builds towards an impending ‘no deal’ in the autumn?
Diplomats and officials were clear on Thursday that Mr Johnson’s statement, taken together with his decision to purge the Cabinet of all forces of compromise, could only be explained by a desire to create the conditions for an election.
The only question in European minds is whether that election comes as a result of Parliament blocking ‘no deal’ – and Mr Johnson being forced to request an extension to Article 50 – or after a ‘no deal’ has already happened.
Perhaps No One Blinks
Without a doubt, Johnson laid the groundwork for an early election.
But the notion Johnson will seek and extension other than for a week or so tie up loose ends in preparation of no deal seems silly. Also silly is the notion parliament will block no deal.
Parliament has no such power other than to force an election. And it’s now likely too late to force an election in time to kill Brexit.
Besides, with Labour splintered, it’s likely Johnson will achieve a strong working majority in the next election.
Meanwhile, as long as both sides believe the other side will blink, neither will.
It may take a crippling recession in the EU before it comes to its senses.
Germany, EU exporters in general, will get crushed in the event of no deal.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock