On the Verge of a Brexit Breakthrough


Johnson submitted his plan to the EU. Ireland, Jean-Claude Juncker, and others say it won't work. Breakthrough? Where?

Ignore the denials, Boris Johnson made significant progress in negotiations with the EU and Ireland.

Here are a few details of Johsnon's proposal from the Guardian Live Blog.

Johnson’s plan essentially replaces a UK-wide backstop with a Northern Ireland (NI) only backstop (which is what was originally planned before May proposed the UK-wide one to satisfy the DUP). Under May’s plan the whole of the UK would have stayed in the customs union, and NI would also have stayed bound by some single market (regulatory) rules. Johnson has reverted to a NI-only model, with two features: Northern Ireland staying in an all-island regulatory zone for goods, meaning a regulatory border down the Irish Sea; but Northern Ireland staying in UK customs territory, meaning a customs border in Ireland.

Frosty Reception

The Guardian says Johnson's plan received a frosty reception.

And Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar says Johnsosn plans 'do not fully meet agreed objectives'.

Breakthrough? Yes

Not only is Varadkar ready for more talks, so is Juncker.

Juncker Open to Discuss

Here is a snip from Juncker's Statement.

President Juncker welcomed Prime Minister Johnson's determination to advance the talks ahead of the October European Council and make progress towards a deal. He acknowledged the positive advances, notably with regards to the full regulatory alignment for all goods and the control of goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain. However, the President also noted that there are still some problematic points that will need further work in the coming days, notably with regards to the governance of the backstop. The delicate balance struck by the Good Friday Agreement must be preserved. Another concern that needs to be addressed are the substantive customs rules. He also stressed that we must have a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving North-South cooperation and the all-island economy, and protecting the EU's Single Market and Ireland's place in it.

No Deal Scam

Some label the effort as a "no deal scam"

But ...

DUP on Board

Solid majority?

Key Idea

Labour Support

Makings of a Deal

If the DUP, Tory Brexiteers, Tory regulars, and a handful of Laboiur MPs are on board, this will fly easily.

Recall that Theresa May's third reading failed by only 5 votes.

Of course, for a deal to fly, the EU needs to go along.

But if Ireland agrees, so will the EU, or there will be No Deal.

Ireland Must Give

Some label Johnson's tactics as "blackmailing" Ireland.

Call it what you like, but as I said two days ago, Ireland's Brexit Position is Logically and Legally Impossible.

Either Ireland agrees to something or there is increasing likelihood of No Deal in which Ireland will be forced to put border controls on its side only.

Meanwhile ...

Parliament Prorogued Again

Johnson intends to request that the current session of Parliament be prorogued from the evening of Tuesday 8 October, with a Queen’s Speech on Monday 14 October.

All that court action for what?

It looks to me like it helped Johnson.

Labour Bounce is Over

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Despite an allegedly amazing speech by Jeremy Corbyn at the Labour Party conference, the Labour bounce lasted all of one day, assuming it happened at all.

Benn Bill

The Benn Bill says Johnson must ask for an extension. Johnson says he won't. He also says he will comply with the law.

The bill proponents say the bill is watertight. Can both sides be correct?

Possibly. One way would be if Johnson can get the EU to say this is the final deal, and there will be no more extensions.

The irony in this madness is that far from taking No Deal off the table, the Benn bill increased the odds of No Deal.

Labour's position is to negotiate a deal and then hold a referendum. That can't possibly sit well with the EU.

Everyone is tired of referendums, except it seems for Labour.

Corbyn Caretaker Government Unlikely

The Liberal Democrats have repeatedly ruled out supporting Jeremy Corbyn as leader of a caretaker government. Without their support Corbyn does not have the votes to head up a caretaker government.

And Corbyn refuses to back anyone else. Without Labour votes there is again no majority.

This is crucial. Parliament can oust Johnson, but if it cannot agree on a new PM to seek an extension, there will not be an extension if Johnson has a way around Benn or if the EU refuses to extend.

Grounds for a Deal

  1. If there are elections, Johnson rates to get a huge majority. In that case, No Deal happens, extension or not.
  2. The EU can see the polls too. They are very aware of them.
  3. Germany is in shambles. The entire Eurozone is on the cusp of recession if not in recession.
  4. And to top it off, Trump just won a case against Airbus and will now go ahead with tariffs.
  5. The EU will not breach certain red lines but neither will Johnson.

The makings of a fair deal are right there in those five points.

Political Reality

  • The UK and the EU took small steps towards each other. This is the first time in three years that has happened.
  • Don't underestimate or overestimate what that means. There are dozens of ways a deal can collapse, but as long as the Liberal Democrats hold their ground, odds favor a deal or an election rather than another delay or extension or a long-duration caretaker government.
  • Ignore the chatter. The Liberal Democrat's primary goal is not really to win Brexit cancellation, but to pick up a huge number of Labour seats.
  • If it negotiations collapse, the most likely result given election math is a Johnson victory and No Deal at all.
  • Finally, the Liberal Democrats have a current hold on all the hard Remainers. Like Johnson, they want elections. The kicker is that the Liberal Democrats want an election before Brexit is settled. Remain goes away as an issue in the event of a deal.

Ponder that last point. The Liberal Democrats are desperate for an election but it has to be before Brexit is settled. To get one, they need to defeat a Johnson deal or somehow trigger an election before this is settled.

If the Liberal Democrats can do the latter, prepare for a Labour slaughter and a No Deal Brexit.

There is no advantage for the Liberal Democrats to support a caretaker government under Corbyn or any caretaker government at all that does not force elections by January.

This diminishes the odds but does not entirely rule out a lengthy caretaker government with Brexit suspended.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (31)
No. 1-11

"...small steps toward each other.." can chew up a large amount of time.


Once again the British press covers itself in glory not. They are all blathering on about will the deal pass parliament, no one is asking whether the other side will agree. I will make three points. 1) There is no Stormont Assembly at the moment. 2) Regulatory alignment is the sine qua non of goods entering the EU. Being aligned does not equate to frictionless trade at the border. Frictionless trade only applies if you are a member of the EU. The liars two border solution does not address this problem. 3) The liar is playing fast and loose with the unity of the UK. If Ulster can have a special place in the UK why not Scotland? This proposed deal raises more questions than it answers.


This definitely sounds like a better deal than Theresa May’s deal. Most importantly, Britain keeps its sovereignty. Her deal lost by only 5 votes—if the EU agrees to a deal like this, it will pass parliament.


Hahaha, I definitely admire your courage in trying to predict a Brexit outcome Mish, but I don’t share your optimism.


No, Ireland has very little incentive to compromise. A no deal scenario suits Ireland very well since it would very likely lead to a break up of the UK and the unification of Ireland. Polls already show that anti-Brexit support is growing in northern Ireland. With a no deal situation and a Scottish secession a plebiscite on Irish unification will pretty much be inevitable.

Why bend a finger to help make Brexit work when the political chaos of a no deal exit serves Ireland's interests?


" Parliament can oust Johnson, but if it cannot agree on a new PM to seek an extension,"

I would add that Johnson's government can not be replaced unless Labor and the Lib Dem have support of the 21 or so rebel Tories. I'm sure Johnson has made some deal with them, like, back my plan and I'll let you stand for election in your respective constituencies.


I hope he gets over the brexit line and then he will become one of the greatest prime minister. Everyone will then quiten down



Theresa May lost something by 5 votes what was it?


It'll be interesting to see how the EU and anti-Democrat MPs try to spin rejecting this, particularly if they then bypass Johnson to grant an extension. The longer this goes on, the more obvious their collusion becomes and the more hated they will be. I'm a hardcore Brexiteer and I almost want them to do this, just to see what happens.

The remainers position is untenable and, judging by the tantrums in parliament recently, they know it.

Deep Purple
Deep Purple

It is ridiculous that the ERG supports this. It would be interesting to see the actual vote when Farage condemns the entire Tory party for betrayal. Easily and cheaply. :) However, I doubt that we will come to see this because the EU can still shoot down the whole thing. They are playing polite and watching the time now.

As for the LibDems, yes, they have good poll numbers at the moment. Very good numbers. But in practice, they have these numbers only because of Brexit. They cannot afford to lose Brexit because they have very little else. On the other hand, Brexit is a torture for Corbyn. A good case can be made that the referendum was invented to torture him in the first place... If a no deal Brexit happens on October 31, fence-sitter Corbyn could blame everyone else and proceed with his domestic agenda immediately. The LibDems? They were the extreme Remain party and they could not get behind an interim PM for a week. Total collapse.

Everything stands behind Corbyn in this little short-term game. The number of MPs, the Leader of the Opposition title, the moderate fence-sitter position. On the other hand, LibDems can win much more than an interim PM nomination if they make a tactical retreat now. I am not happy with the thought but it is probably baked into the cake.


Oh dear.
This absurd business of democracy and voting has gone on much too far. They get it wrong every time now. It should have been done away with a long time ago.