Back on the brink

So, against expectations, Boris Johnson has managed to cobble together a deal acceptable to the EU, though to get it over the line he has been obliged to completely cave in on the Irish border question, essentially accepting that Northern Ireland will stay in the single market indefinitely and that the customs line will run down the Irish Sea. To balance this climbdown he is able to point to the freedom to significantly loosen regulations in the rest of the UK, which Brexit enthusiasts have always promoted as the main benefit of the process.

However… there is still the small matter of getting this deal approved by Westminster, with a vote scheduled the day after tomorrow. The right of the Tory party seem to be on board, convinced by the promise of unfettered capitalism, while the DUP are steadfastly opposed, which is unsurprising given that Johnson has comprehensively betrayed their core principles. The Labour leadership and the other opposition parties have pledged to vote no, leaving Johnson dependent on twenty or so Labour rebels, who were previously in favour of Theresa May’s abortive deal. Johnson’s plan is much more hostile to workers’ rights though, which is likely to put off most if not all of the potential waverers, who will also be reluctant to hand Johnson a boost immediately ahead of the coming election. All things considered, it looks like a long shot.

If Johnson’s deal falls, where does that leave the nation? There was a hint today that the EU would lose patience, and just kick us out at the end of the month, but they seem to be backtracking on that threat, so a further extension, to give time for an election and/or another referendum, appears likely. We’re more or less back where we were this time last year; I’d be reluctant to bet that things will be any different by next October…

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