Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. Aug. 02, 2019 4 min read

The normalisation of the risks of a 'no deal' Brexit is one of the most amazing aspects of this entire episode - that a Government should start its election pitch on the basis of an act of econmic self-harm (whatever your views as to where it leads). 1/

But it really does now seem as if we are heading towards a 'no deal' in order that @BorisJohnson can see off the threat from @Nigel_Farage @brexitparty_uk - these polls are right. /2 

Lots of pondering what the 'ultimate' aim of @BorisJohnson
govt is....would they *really* go for a 'no deal' when the planning looks so messy.... as revealed by @SamCoatesSky yesterday /3

But the truth is, @BorisJohnson has deliberately framed the new #Brexit discussion in such a way that it makes 'no deal' politically far more likely...eschewin diplomatic outreach to seek surgical changes to backstop, taking a maximalist 'bin the backstop' position. /4

That means that even *if* this hardnut approach delivered, say, a time-limit to the Irish backstop and Geoffrey Cox changed that legal advice, it could only be seen as a failure.

@BorisJohnson would return to UK as Chamberlain, not Churchill. /5

Some will hope it's a snap General Election before no deal (needs to happen by Sept 3) OR that @BorisJohnson will secretly hope he's mandated to seek an extension to avoid 'no deal'...but the political imperative to kill the @brexitparty_uk suggests otherwise. /6

Nothing you hear from inside Whitehall or Brussels at the moment suggests anything other than a 'no deal', or that this coming 'negotiation' will be framed any differently from the (failed) May/Cameron negotations - big demands, small concessions, disappointment in London. /7

The British position is the same in private as in public.

Bin the backstop, we'll sort citizens, then give us a minimal FTA, cushioned by bilateral mini-deals.

Suffice to say that's not where EU side are... /8

You can speculate over how far @EU_Commission will hold the line on mini-deals, but if negotiations of the last 3-4 years show anything, surely it's that the EU will defend its legal order and the EU single market...just look at the heat Ireland is taking to prepare border. /9

EU officials see inexorable political logic on UK side but genuinely baffled how UK govt could responsibly do a 'no deal' with no clarity on how trucks/transport/containters/services (Mode 4/5) pharmaceuticals etc get delivered... Johnson won't even accept invite from Macron! /10

So real trepidation in Europe - real concern that, as one senior EU diplomat put it to me - the British government is no longer in the camp that deals with the EU as a rational economic and legal actor. But is in the Trump camp. That's not name-calling, but a question. /11

Is the British government under @BorisJohnson entering a paradigm shift, to a Trumpian kind of politics? Coarse, nationalist and ultimately bullying?

And if so, given UK importance to EU trade and security, would appeasing it help or hinder stabilisation? /12

This may be the fundamental calculation come October.

It may also be @BorisJohnson fundamental miscalculation that the EU will respond to his politics as they do to Trumps - doing everythign to head off those car tariffs etc. /13

Because Trump is ultimately EU security guarantor, via Nato; holder of the world's reserve currency; weaponised financial superpower (think Iran sanctions v EU).....but the UK is not in that category. /14

As one on EU side put it to me:

"Everyone has read Trump's 'Art of a Deal' and knows you need to flatter his daughter to keep him happy..but no-one is bothering reading Johnson's biog of Churchill."


Fighting talk, but with Johnson facing those political imperatives noted above, the EU will have to decide if it wants to put it's money where its mouth is (literally) come October....with all the strategic consquences that implies. /16

They will have to decide if appeasing the UK with a 'managed' 'no deal' is worth the downside political risk of rewarding what is essentially a full-blown populist government...not in Italy or Hungary...but in the nation once considere the 'pragmatic' one in the EU. /17

Direct Rule in Northern Ireland, with all that implies for the future of the United Kingdom.

Economic self-harm over both short and medium term.

The European Union, from a global perspective, fraying visibly as a viable geopolitical entity. /18

It is a bitter irony that David Cameron promised the Brexit referendum to see off the threat from @Nigel_Farage UKIP party, but has succeeded only in rendering the Tory Party risking all to see off its successor. /19

What was it that David Cameron said?

#Brexit would "unleash demons of which ye know not"?

Yes indeed. 20/ENDS

You can follow @pmdfoster.


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