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Monday 22 July 2019

Today is the last day for Conservative Party members to get their leadership ballots in. The result will be announced tomorrow evening, triggering a frenzy of cabinet appointments before Westminster goes to sleep for the summer (and Brexit Brunch too we’re afraid). If reports on the Today programme this morning are to be believed, even Boris Johnson will be taking it easy, or at least he will be in his dealings with the EU, which has already fallen into a coma – those Brussels bureaucrats do cherish their holidays.

Boris’s plan is to sweat ‘em out. He won’t be making entreaties to friendly European capitals. Instead, the focus will be on ramping up No Deal preparations at home, in line with his pledge towards a providing assurances for British businesses via a massive public information campaign  revealed last week.

Delivering assurances “in a wholehearted, systematic and confident way that you minimise any disruption that might take place,” he told ITV’s Robert Peston.

Boris has reinforced the commitment in his Telegraph column – his final missive – reflecting on Apollo 11 and America’s phenomenal can-do spirit.

“There is no task so simple that government cannot overcomplicate if it doesn’t want to do it. And there are few tasks so complex that humanity cannot solve if we have a real sense of mission to pull them off.” Spot on.

Boris’s strategy will concern Brussels, the Brits mean business. Indeed, it already is. Ireland’s de facto Brexit spokesperson, foreign minister Simon Coveney, cut a frustrated figure on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday.

The forlorn Mr Coveney was trying to resuscitate the dead withdrawal agreement on the grounds “there would be a fundamental unfairness also in offering an entirely new deal to a new British prime minister”.

Honestly? Unfair to one single, deeply misguided former British prime minister, just one person out of 66m.

Quizzed on an alternative way forward, following rumours Coveney’s boss, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been sending out envoys to meet with Team Boris, he suggested that if the new PM seeks to change “the future relationship, ambition between the UK and the EU, then certainly we hope the backstop can be avoided.” In other words, the Irish backstop is dispensable if Britain chooses to remain in the Single Market, thereby agreeing to open borders. What planet are they on?

Among Tory Remainers, attitudes range from Coveney-esque delusion to sombre acceptance of Britain’s forward trajectory out of the EU.

Defence minister, Tobias Ellwood appeared on GMB this morning (see below) to say there’s no such thing as a No Deal. At the other end of the spectrum, Sir Alan Duncan at the Foreign Office resigned a few moments ago.

Duncan’s resignation was inevitable following scathing criticism of Boris’s understandably vague response to the Kim Darroch affair. But Duncan will not the be the last.

The big story yesterday was Philip Hammond’s insistence that Boris will not have the chance to sack him. As soon as Theresa May tenders her resignation on Wednesday, the chancellor will follow suit, as will David Gauke. They will be joined by Rory Stewart, and up to nine others. The Times reports six Tory MPs have opened talks with the Lib Dems. Only a handful would be need to wipe out the Tories’ working majority.

A Brexiteer may be poised to finally occupy Downing Street, but the Remain threat is as present as ever.