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Thursday 13 September 2019 

Further to Wednesday’s edition of Brexit Brunch, which covered the prospect of a regulatory border being imposed in the Irish Sea, an option originally pitched by Michel Barnier, the Times reports the DUP are receptive to the idea.

Under May’s existing deal, in the event the Irish backstop kicks in, checks will be administered on some goods being transported from the mainland to Northern Ireland. Understandably, this was the DUP’s main bone of contention when Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was first published almost a year ago.

“We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the UK,” said Arlene Foster at the time of the agreement’s publication. She appears now to be on the verge of a compromise, a big one.

According to sources in the DUP, a higher level of regulatory checks would be acceptable as a means of avoiding the backstop altogether, even if it meant the rest of the UK going in its own direction and not taking the Irish province with it.

However, the DUP would still prefer not to be left behind and are insisting that as part of the compromise, “alternative arrangements” to an open, but regulated border on the island of Ireland are fast-tracked. If Britain fails to arrange a trade deal with the EU over the transition period – which would now extend well into 2021 – the DUP want a system in place that tracks the import and export of goods for the purposes of paying tariffs. The Ulster Unionists will only backtrack as far as regulatory checks it would seem.

As suspected in this blog, the proposal was put together during Boris Johnson’s visit to Dublin on Tuesday. “There is an acknowledgment in Downing Street that if they can’t get an election they need a deal,” said a Whitehall source, implying Boris doesn’t have the mettle after all, a suspicion reinforced by today’s Telegraph.

Cabinet ministers are putting pressure on their boss to go back on his promise and extend Article 50 rather than disobey the opposition’s order to do so.

“He cannot resign. Jeremy Corbyn could end up staying in Number 10 for a year,” said a minister. Their pitch is supported by reports from Brussels (see above) that EU bureaucrats don’t want to work with Labour and Corbyn’s “mad” plan to negotiate a deal, which they will then campaign against at a second referendum. All rather convenient and it goes without saying that any organisation would prefer not to work with an incompetent like Corbyn.

Nevertheless, Boris is manoeuvring himself out of the “do or die” by October 31st corner he backed himself into during the Tory leadership contest, a pledge re-affirmed only a week ago to great applause.

He could of course simply ignore the order to prolong this fiasco, but the same minister – a Brexiteer – also told the Telegraph “The government does not break the law.”

Outgoing Speaker John Bercow has weighed in (of course he has). At an event in London yesterday he told the audience he was committed to getting the government to toe the line as his last act of defiance before stepping down.

And if doing so “demands additional procedural creativity in order to come to pass, it is a racing certainty that this will happen, and that neither the limitations of the existing rulebook nor the ticking of the clock will stop it doing so.”

How, after the biggest democratic mandate in British political history, can the House of Commons by presided over by this rampaging anti-democratic nut.

Bring on that election. Don’t let us down Boris.