Boris Johnson insists that he’s not bluffing when he says he’s prepared to take the UK out of the EU with no deal if, as is now widely predicted, he becomes Britain’s next prime minister later this month.
Do we believe him? Maybe; maybe not. Many don’t.
One reason why there’s so much suspicion is that he has consistently said he will try to get a better deal from the EU – and expects to do so.
Since the EU has shown itself implacably opposed to any renegotiation, some might assume therefore that Johnson is therefore inevitably on course to embrace no-deal.
But today we hear Labour MPs murmuring that, given their absolute refusal to leave with no-deal, they would now be prepared to vote for Mrs May’s deal. You know, the one that was voted down repeatedly by the Commons since both Brexiteers and Remainers thought it was unbelievably bad because it would be even worse for the UK than remaining in the EU.
So the fear for Brexiteers must be that Johnson will obtain some kind of variation on Mrs May’s deal to enable him to go back to the Commons and pretend he’s sorted the difficulty (!!) and this time get it through with the assistance of Labour MPs.
Far-fetched? Most assuredly. But in these strangest of times, anything could happen.
The deeper reason Brexiteers don’t trust Johnson to deliver Brexit (apart from the whole character thing) is that saying he will renegotiate with the EU means one of two things. Either he’s bluffing in order to win over soggy Brexiteers and less-fanatical Remainers.
Or he really does think he can negotiate a better deal with the EU. But even if they agreed to reopen such discussions, it has been obvious from the start that the only terms to which the EU would ever agree would be terms which would badly disadvantage the UK.
Either Johnson knows that, or he doesn’t. I’m not sure which is worse.