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Friday 26 July 2019

The last edition of Brexit Brunch before the summer break finishes on a high note, quite remarkable when you consider that had Theresa May’s dreadful Withdrawal Agreement passed though the Commons, it would now be in place. The lowest point came in late March of this year, when Article 50 was extended. It seemed this purgatory would never end.

Since then however, we’ve seen the rise of the Brexit Party from nothing to become the biggest party in the European Parliament, and we have a Brexiteer at Number 10 committed to taking Britain out of the EU by the new withdrawal deadline on Halloween.

Boris’s first full day as prime minister did not disappoint. His laceration of a literally squirming Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist chums on the front bench is a joy to behold (we highly recommend you watch it here). He also reaffirmed is commitment to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, “abolishing” the backstop.

We must “restore trust in our democracy, and fulfil the repeated promises of Parliament to the people by coming out of the European Union and doing so on October the 31st,” said the prime minister at the dispatch box yesterday.

“I and all ministers are committed to leaving on this date, whatever the circumstances, and to do otherwise would cause a catastrophic loss of confidence in our system. It would leave the British people wondering whether their politicians could ever be trusted again to follow a clear democratic instruction.” Quite so.

Later that day Boris got on the phone with Jean-Claude Juncker, to whom he reiterated the demand for his predecessor’s deal to be chucked. Naturally, Juncker declined any changes to the Withdrawal agreement – this is only the first round. He was joined by Leo Varadakar:

“A time-limit is not enough. If an agreement is to be reached, it must be clearly understood that the way to the deal goes by way of the abolition of the backstop.”

Meanwhile, Michel Barnier circulated a letter – later leaked – urging EU27 leaders to “remain calm”.

“PM Johnson has stated that if an agreement is to be reached it goes by way of eliminating the backstop. This is of course unacceptable and not within the mandate of the European Council.”

A mandate designed by itself. It can be changed, unlike the mandate given to Parliament by the British people.

The important part of Barnier’s notice is the call for “calm”, because Panic is spreading in Brussels. According to the Times the EU is working on a strategy to avoid a “Brexit cold war”. European capitals are finally acknowledging that Boris will not come back begging as the withdrawal date draws near.

The EU is against a future trade deal if the Withdrawal Agreement is not implemented. The unnecessary red line would pour gallons of venom onto a relationship already frayed to oblivion. Germany and the Netherlands – two massive exporters to the UK – are not willing to tolerate such a protracted breakdown in relations, especially one that could be so easily avoided.

Even the likes of France, Italy and Spain are concerned. They recognise that Jeremy Corbyn is going to be slaughtered at the next election. Britain won’t be turning into a Marxist colony any time soon, but a pro-business, pro-growth paradise, a fearsome competitor in global markets.

No solutions have come forward, just for a “single framework” to keep Britain negotiating after No Deal.

“There is no shortage of acrimony,” said an ambassador. “I don’t think there will be any circumstances under which there will be anything other than a Brexit cold war.”

If that’s what they want, so be it. It’s too hot in Europe anyway.