Prime Minister's Questions may have proved a rather dreary affair this week but there was one reply that has become a source of intrigue in Westminster: Boris Johnson on Brexit. When the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford asked the Prime Minister whether he would commit to releasing 'a detailed economic impact assessment of the cost to the UK of his extreme Tory Brexit plans', Johnson sounded more upbeat on the prospects of a deal.Where Johnson has previously taken any opportunity going to stress that no deal is the most likely outcome, he did not today. Instead he talked more positively of the chances of a deal:
“'There’s every opportunity, every hope that I have, that our friends and partners across the Channel will see sense and do a deal, and all that that takes is for them to understand that the UK has a natural right, like every other country, to want to be able to control its own laws and its own fishing grounds.” He added: “Whatever happens in the next few days, I know that this country will prosper mightily on the terms that we agree with our European friends, whatever they may be, whether they’re Australian or Canadian, he can go forward with a high heart and confidence into 2021, knowing that there are great opportunities for Scotland and the rest of the UK.'
Tory MPs have become rather animated on the topic in recent days as they have waited to hear whether they are expected to be in the Commons next week to vote on a deal. Now they have been told that the House of Commons will go into recess on Thursday – but MPs and peers will be recalled if there is a deal to vote on. While Downing Street is still keen to play down the prospect of a deal, it is true that the mood music has improved. Briefings about how badly it is going and how far apart the two sides are have been replaced with silence. That's led to speculation in the Tory party that something is going on – a deal is being agreed. However, one senior Brexiteer tells Coffee House they are sceptical Johnson will bring a deal back – on the grounds it's unlikely to fulfil all the promises he has made on the issue.
Those on the EU side are more optimistic and suggest a deal could now be imminent. Speaking on Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen also sounded more upbeat – saying there was a narrow path to a deal. She stressed issues remain on fishing rights. Some in Brussels have since gone so far as to say that, along with progress on a level playing field, there is also movement on fisheries. But a deal is not done – and as with a week and a half ago when there was hope a deal was close – and things quickly went downhill – there is time a few more twists before any agreement is finalised.