James Forsyth

Why the EU isn’t taking Boris’s Brexit threat seriously yet

Why the EU isn't taking Boris's Brexit threat seriously yet
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Boris Johnson’s Downing Street is being quite clear that if the EU wants to talk then it needs to be prepared to reopen the withdrawal agreement. If the EU isn’t prepared to budge on this, the message is that there will be no deal.

The EU isn’t inclined to take this threat that seriously right now. The view is that parliament will find a way to block the UK leaving without a deal or Boris Johnson will get cold feet. Even if the UK does leave without a deal, many in the EU reckon that within months the UK will be so keen to come back to the table that it’ll end up accepting the current agreement after all.

So Boris Johnson needs to show that he can overcome any parliamentary effort to block no deal and that he can make it politically viable. In terms of the former, Boris Johnson’s best tool against parliamentary opponents of no deal is public opinion. If it becomes clear that he’d win an election if one was forced on him, the parliamentary resistance to no deal would weaken significantly.

On the latter, this is where the state of no deal preparation comes in. If it becomes clear that the UK has a way of managing most of the issues involved in no deal then it becomes a more realistic option.

One confidant of Boris Johnson’s believes that if they can get to the party conference recess – which starts on September 14th – without MPs having taken any successful action against no deal, then the EU really will have to start thinking about whether it is prepared to move from its current position to avoid no deal.