The core beliefs of Boris Johnson have always been elusive. The Prime Minister doesn’t like to be backed into a corner, certainly not by something as trivial as the things he’s said in the past. But as the the October 31 deadline looms, the question is if he will stick to this Brexit promise in particular.
With the countdown clock officially set at one month until B-Day, the first signs of Johnson inching his way out of his Brexit corner are showing. An internal Conservative briefing to their MPs has surfaced that directs the Party’s MPs to use the media line “we are determined to deliver Brexit on 31 October”. This is a subtle but significant change from the more categorical, do or die language that we “will” deliver Brexit by 31 October, which has always been used up until now. Perhaps the Government’s confidence in the Prime Minister’s ability to get a deal is faltering. With the Irish Prime Minister swiftly rejecting the latest speculated proposals of ‘customs clearance centres’ on either side of the border, hope and time for a deal certainly seem to be running low.
As discussion of damage control begins, factions are opening in the Conservative Cabinet around what the Prime Minister’s response should be in the event that he does not manage to secure a deal with the EU. Whilst they are publicly putting on a united front (long gone are the days of Theresa May when Ministers could openly revolt – Cummings rules with an iron fist), these groups are becoming increasingly polarised.
On one end of the spectrum you have the do-or-die leavers, such as Dominic Raab, who think Johnson should simply refuse to delay, openly defying the rule of Parliament in the process. On the other you have the delayers, such as Robert Buckland, who believe the Prime Minister should delay rather than try his luck finding a way around Parliament. Then somewhere in the middle you have the pragmatists who believe that if an extension is forced upon him, Johnson could survive.
Yet Johnson is playing his cards close to his chest and not even those on the inside seem to know what he’s going to do. However if he does stick to his guns, he risks being on the wrong side of the law and would lead the UK into the uncertain waters of what happens when a Prime Minister actively defies the will of the sovereign Parliament. If he doesn’t fancy taking on Parliament in such a blazon and potentially law-breaking way, he always has the old favourite – to pretend he never said it, and if he did, to pretend that’s not what he meant.
In other news, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave a speech to Conference yesterday which would usually be big news, but this is the Boris Johnson show after all.