Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. Jul. 16, 2019 4 min read

So. Hardening "no deal" signals are emerging from @borisjohnson camp. What is going on? What might it mean? Is it choreographed? Is it all that it appears?

Some thoughts after chats in UK and EU. 1/thread

First the evidence, in three parts:

1. Steve Barclay goes to Brussels last week and tells @MichelBarnier the Withdrawal Agreement is dead. Five times! Really stickst the boot in, per EU sources. @brunobrussels @nickgutteridge hears ame. /2

 https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/brexit/9506830/boris-johnsons-brexit-plan-already-dismissed-by-eu-after-steve-barclay-meeting/ 

2. At the SUN/TalkRadio hustings last night Johnson dismisses the very same "fixes" to the backstop - a time-limit or exit mechanism - that only back in the Spring were what Brexiteers wanted! Cue shock. /3

3. Then @SamCoatesSky reports that Team Boris is considering Queens Speech in early November which would mean proroguing Parliament to get a 'no deal'. Campaign doesn't deny, but says still hasn't decided. /4

I'm not sure if Boris had stripped to his Union Jack underpants and stood on Big Ben with a megaphone he could have said it louder:

"WE ARE SERIOUS ABOUT 'NO DEAL'" .

Which after all is avowed part of his 'plan'. /5

It is difficult to know what to make of this, since TeamBoris, by all accounts is in chaos. A vipers next of competing factions all vying for the ear of heir to the Tory throne.

Here are some ideas, not all mutually exclusive. /6

The first is that the 'no deal' "clean break" faction is now fully in the ascendant in Boris world.

Whitehall sources tell me there is no serious evidence of plans for a meaningful renegotiation. And rumours of purges abound. /7

In this scenario, Boris is "all in", to use a poker term, and bets either on a soft/managed 'no deal' and the fabled GATT 24 scenario.

Or that @LeoVaradkar really will blink when a 'no deal' looms, and the Tory party fails to find its spine. /8

A second scenario is that this is just a fluctation in the Boris policy evolution that suits the needs of the campaign...and that it will evolve.

Which is to say there may not be all that much of a coherent strategy behind it - just go hard, go big and see what happens. /9

This might seem trite/unlikely but I keep being told by sources not to "over-think" Boris's strategy at this point.

They say things like "he really hasn't thought that far ahead". /10

But what if he has? There's a radical thought, I know but what if there is a cunning plan?

Don't laugh now, but bear with me.

What if...../11

The plan is to go so hard over at the beginning that you create space for compromise?

Boris says he wants to 'bin the backstop'....but then in the spirit of a statesmanlike compromise decides to accept the "time-limit" or "exit mechanism" both sides now say they dont' want/12

Clearly this is on the wilder end of possibility since the EU has multiply ruled out time-limits and exit-clauses....but always with the private caveat that they could go to all sorts of places if Ireland agrees (and agrees to protect the single market) /13

This may be delusional, but it fits with one Borisworld 'plan' which is to pile the pressure on the Irish, and then do a deal in which @LeoVaradkar gets to take the credit for avoiding a 'no deal' /14

This plan, if it were a plan, may be far too 'cunning';

It may misunderstand Irish and EU political positions...

But it may yet be a plan. /15

Otherwise we're careering headlong into a 'no deal'...and if the Parliamentary maths is correct, in all probability, a General Election...is that what Boris? Or even Labour wants?

If not, why go in so hard, so early? If you really wanted a 'no deal' why not play it long? /16

That way you get to European Council on Oct 17, the dye is case and - per Boris/Raab predictions - the Party is much less brave than everyone is prediciting and we slump into a 'no deal', half by arrangement with the EU? /17

Because going in studs up now, boxing yourself into a corner with the leadership already in the bag if polls are to be believed, doesn't make much sense?

The EU is already bristling predictably enought...warning that if Boris carries on like this it'l be a hard 'no deal' /18

As one EU source said to me today, there will be no mattresses at the bottom of the cliff...

...a cliff, fwiw, I don't think Boris wants to jump off, with minimal 'no deal' legislation in place and no majority to manage a 'no deal'. It'll be a sh*tshow. /19

Anyway...just playing thought games really.

There is still a long way to go before Oct 31.

Maybe everything is as it seems. Maybe not.

Maybe even Boris doesn't really know himself what happens the crunch comes. ENDS/20


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