Take it to the Limit: Two Letters and a Dramatic Change of Brexit Tune


Boris Johnson disclosed his "Test Legal Limits" strategy (or parts of it) this morning. Premature? Let's discus.

Last Thursday, Eurointelligence stated that Royal Assent of the Benn Bill was likely on Friday. I strongly objected.

Eurointelligence repeated that view on Friday and again I strongly objected.

I seldom go against their views because they are generally unbiased. In this case, however, I was confident they blew the legal discussion.

This morning, without admitting or even discussing their now obvious errors, Eurointelligence says "Chances of no-deal are rising and rising."

Eurointelligence Dramatic Change in Tune

Boris Johnson will not break the law and go to jail. We note there is a lot of hyperventilating commentary out there that misses the essential point. He will circumvent the law. And it looks like he is ready to involve the EU in this. We have been arguing for a while that Remainers are somewhat optimistic about their ability to force an extension. It is the EU, not the UK parliament or a UK court, that has the final decision. And each member state has a veto.

That paragraph is a total whitewash of what they said last week. Here is one snip. from last week:

So what can Johnson do apart from cranking up the rhetoric, like the pledge that he'd rather die in a ditch than ask for an extension? What will he do when the request for an extension is the law? Another option for Johnson is to defy the Brexit bill, and risk being impeached by parliament.

I commented " Eurointelligence is making an assumption that Boris will not pursue one of the options it laid out. But why would Johnson tell the opposition in advance what it would do? .... Eurointelligence jumped the gun."

OK, I made my point. Let's return to the critical issue with today's Eurointelligence report.

The Daily Telegraph has a story this morning that Johnson is considering writing two letters - one that follows the formal instruction to ask for a three-month extension, and another saying that the government is not planning to meet the EU’s conditions. We doubt very much that the EU would extend based on such a request, especially if the UK does not fulfil the formal commitments of an extension agreed at the April European Council: to point to a political way forward. The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said yesterday that France is presently minded to veto. The French narrative is based on lack of progress in the negotiations. This only goes to show that active non-cooperation is a viable strategy for Johnson. Imagine the EU’s response if he threatened to veto every decision in the European Council.

The Guardian ended its story with the remark that France will in the end not veto because Emmanuel Macron does not want to be blamed for a no-deal Brexit. We find that astonishing. Who on earth would blame Macron for Brexit?

Our understanding is that Johnson and his team are pressing ahead relentlessly, despite the largely-negative media commentary. Yesterday he lost Amber Rudd as works and pensions secretary. He may lose a few more ministers. The more he loses, the stronger his position becomes internally.

At the end of a week described by the media as disastrous, the Tories' poll rating went up. A YouGov poll has the Tories up by 10pp. We disagree with the evolving media consensus about Dominic Cummings. His disruption is working politically. Media commentators should resist the temptation to overestimate their influence. We note the same tendency in continental newspapers whose outrage is fuelled further by the sudden realisation that Brexit may actually happen.

Intelligent Commentary

That's mostly intelligent commentary. I have some objections that I will discuss later.

This observation is the same one I have made repeatedly: "Yesterday he lost Amber Rudd as works and pensions secretary. He may lose a few more ministers. The more he loses, the stronger his position becomes internally. "

Here's another important Eurpintelligence observation:

Also consider that, the more radical the Tories are, the more Nigel Farage will co-operate. There only has to be a single pro-Brexit candidate on every constituency ticket against a multitude of pro-Remain candidates.

We also hear reports that Johnson is ready to involve the Supreme Court, which may struggle to rule on the matter in time.

I said both of those things, first.

The parts I agree with are also what I repeatedly have said over the past few days.

I admit my bias. It's difficulty to disagree with yourself.

Two Letter Strategy

The Telegraph reports Boris Johnson draws up plan to legally stop Brexit extension if MPs vote against general election.

​One plan under serious consideration would see the Prime Minister send an accompanying letter alongside the request to extend Article 50 setting out that the Government does not want any delay after Oct 31.

On Sunday night, a Cabinet source told The Telegraph: “There is a prescribed letter that has to be sent... Does that stop the Prime Minister sending other documents to the EU? I don’t think it does.

Really the Plan?

If you are thinking clearly you would quickly realize that cannot possibly be the plan.

What's the Plan?

I don't know, but this move is designed to rattle the opposition. It surely doesn't reveal the plan. It's too early for that.

But what it has to do is put doubts in the minds of the opposition.

This is far more believable.


You tell me, but I doubt it.

It is clear the Benn Bill is illegal.

Start your thinking there. But after this move tonight, one must think deeper.

Yet, faith in silliness, even illegal activities, prevails.

Blind Faith in Illegal Activities

Eurointelligence Observation

The parliament will vote tonight on the government's second request to bring about an election in October. After last week’s pact by opposition parties, this request is set to be rejected again. Once the vote is cast, we expect the government to prorogue parliament today. Johnson will have five clear weeks, unimpeded by parliament, to set the agenda.

Hello October 14

There is no time to both schedule and vote on a motion of No Confidence today.

Parliament will not resume until October 14.

Problem for Johnson?!

The one problem I have with Johnson's tactic today is that Parliament has the option on October 14 to schedule a motion of no confidence and appoint a caretaker government.

That option was always there, but today's move may increase that likelihood.

I would have preferred to spring a trap as late as possible in the process.

That said, it would be hugely presumptuous of me to think I know things that Johnson's legal team doesn't.

Even still, I do not discuss things I have considered that have not been discussed in public, until they happen.

This double letter idea is one of them. I have still others, not yet discussed.

On the slight chance I have an idea that the opposition has not considered, I withhold discussion and will continue to do so.

Musical Tribute

Two Letter Silliness

If you think the two letter idea is a purposeful distraction, you are thinking along the right lines.

If you think it is the real plan or even a significant portion of the real plan, you are not thinking clearly.

Royal Assent - Who Cares?

Kiss the Benn Bill goodbye, even if it gets Royal Assent.

Today's action, even if it passes, shows the bill to be useless. As worded, the illegal nature of the bill should be readily seen.

Issues come and go. The Remainers were simply too confident.

Final Comment

I leave you with a statement from Eurointelligence that I have made several times before: "Never underestimate the power of a prime minister, even a caretaker, to set the agenda".

For the record, I learned that from Eurointelligence and attributed it to them when I used it.

Today, they added an extension that I have not stated previously "even a caretaker".

That is the problem I worry about tonight. However, the actions and confidence of the Government imply that Brexiteers should not be worried.

Based on my report yesterday, Boris Johnson to "Test Legal Limits", Amber Rudd Resigns, Javid Interview, Remainers have far more to worry about.

Worry is up to you.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (44)
No. 1-13

"It is clear the Benn Bill is illegal."

No, it is not clear that it is illegal, but it is hard to argue that it is not defective.

If the Benn Bill receives Royal Assent, it becomes an Act of Parliament, and under principles of Parliamentary Sovereignty as evolved under UK Constitutional law, it would be Statute Law, and by definition legal.



It is highly unlikely to receive Royal Ascent. And it is 99.9% certain that if Johnson makes that recommendation it won't. If Johnson allows RA (my advice is to delay) then Johnson has another legal challenge in mind.

This is all clear now. or should be


I have hard time seeing that a Bill handing over the right to decide over sovereignty to EU would pass. But we are living strange times. My country never voted to join Euro currency and our dishonest politicians just said it was decided when we joined the EU free trade area. I despise the EU.

Deep Purple
Deep Purple

"That said, it would be hugely presumptuous of me to think I know things that Johnson's legal team doesn't."

In fact, it is equally presumptuous to think the same about the opposition. :)


I think this government was doing well tactically up until the moment the opposition didn't take the bait on an early election. I think this surprised Johnson and his people, and they have been scrambling ever since. Then again, the decision to immediately prorogue parliament almost came out of nowhere. Nobody was expecting that timing. So, maybe they have something similar up their sleeve. Who knows.


The Bill has now received Royal Assent so Boris must have something else. Very little has been said about the Kinnock Amendment to this Bill. This was added by a bizarre circumstances where the Government "forgot" to appoint anyone to count the votes against it so it passed by default. My information is that it conflicts with the main Bill but I don't know the technicalities. Maybe this is to form the Legal Challenge and the "mistake" to let it pass wasn't a mistake.


Psychologically, we seem to be entering a twilight zone where whoever wins, loses. If the remainers succeed in preventing Brexit at this time, they will harden the pro-Brexit groups, and most likely be slaughtered at the polls whenever the next election actually occurs. On the other hand, if BJ succeeds in forcing a hard Brexit, the consequences will cause the Conservatives to be slaughtered at the polls. Is it, therefore, possible that BJ plans to let the remainers win this round, knowing that when there ultimately is an election, his way forward will be unimpeded?


Good commentary. It makes sense the two letter thing is a diversion. However, a 'no-confidence motion on or after Oct 19th, the date the Johnson government is required to submit an extension, is probably the greatest threat to Brexit. Rest assured, 100%, that if the Johnson government steps down, Jeremy Corbyn will form a new government with support from everyone against Brexit and he will stop Brexit. I'm sure Boris realizes this, he would not prorogued parliament otherwise.


What about the simple logic: "Parliament cannot supersede or impede the referendum, and by extension the Benn bill is void" ?


It's interesting to see that the people falling on their swords are Remainers...first Rudd, now Bercow. If Remainers are "winning" why do they keep jumping ship? Just saying. As for the bill, it did get Royal Assent today, which opens up the door to legal challenges...a direction Mish has been hinting at. Looks like it will be an interesting two months...


I thought studying physics was hard. Nothing compared to Brexit. I suspect something will happen in a few months to resolve it and no one will understand the solution.


Mish, can you publish the SHA-256 of your secret idea?

Country Bob
Country Bob

According to the Remainers at the BBC, the bill supposedly "is passed". Not sure if that means it got royal assent? I will assume it does, and BBC is either dumbing it down for those of us in the colonies, or just as likely their UK reporter doesn't know the difference anymore than foreigners.

So what has changed, now that the Remainers "won" their legislative coup? Boris will mail a letter to the EU. Maybe it gets lost in the mail? Maybe Brussels gets the letter. Maybe they get two or three or a baker's dozen letters from Johnson. France vetos another extension request, or maybe they were bluffing, or maybe not.

The remainers have pulled every slimey trick in the book to create another delay, which will get punished in the next election. The absolute hard and fast deadline of March 31st already went by, they got a temporary reprieve until June was it? They they got another extension until Oct 31st, which will go by as well. Remainers don't have the money, and neither does the EU.

So we have another bout of procrastination. Its likely that there will be a UK general election in the next few months, with or without another brexit delay.

So maybe Oct 31st happens (no more procrastinating), and Brexit happens.

Maybe the EU grants yet another extension and the UK has a general election.... this time the brexiteers get a bigger majority and a hard exit happens.

Or door number three there is another EU extension and we repeat this whole process again in six months?

Lots of legislative peacocking that changes nothing, or results in Brexit anyway.