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A Brexit extension could be just what Boris Johnson wants

by Ace Damon
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech to delegates on the final day of the annual Conservative Party conference at the Manchester Central convention complex, in Manchester, north-west England on October 2, 2019. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson was set to unveil his plan for a new Brexit deal at his Conservative party conference Wednesday, warning the EU it is that or Britain leaves with no agreement this month. Downing Street said Johnson would give details of a "fair and reasonable compromise" in his closing address to the gathering in Manchester, and would table the plans in Brussels the same day. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

In politics, they say that if you are explaining, you are losing.

Well, if what we learn today is right, Boris Johnson will have a lot to explain.

Documents published in the Session Court say the Prime Minister will ask for an extension if no Brexit agreement can be reached by October 19.

Eagle-eye (even sparrow) readers may identify some inconsistency. Since his decision to run for the conservative leader, the prime minister has employed clarity: Britain will leave the EU on October 31st "whatever happens" and "do or die" even if it means he must "die" in a ditch ". No extensions will be searched.

When parliament legislated in the form of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act (No. 2), more popularly known as the Benn Law, to compel the prime minister to seek an extension if he could not reach a new agreement, it seemed to nullify this. strategy.

In response, Downing Street hinted that it could deny the project's actual consent, preventing it from becoming law: it did not. This suggested that Johnson might disobey the law before saying no. So they said there were ways around it, loopholes to exploit, and if necessary they would take him to court.

Reader, let me tell you a little secret: it doesn't exist and probably not. The truth is that, despite all the arrogance of Downing Street, already, in the brief period since Johnson entered number 10, he has amassed a great deal of flirting history with constitutional cataclysm, just to never move on.

When he pushed a big red button in the form of an illegal and political overtime, it backfired and the internal members were badly scorched. They will speak with difficulty again, but anyone who has read the skillful Benn Act written knows that there is no way around it. The admission to court today was a recognition of a reality that sooner or later this prime minister will extend the Brexit deadline.

'No border or Northern Ireland checks'

The game is over in terms of preventing an extension and the best hope – of reaching an agreement before October 31 – is almost lost. The deadlines involved are very tight and there is little incentive for the EU to agree to a set of proposals that it considers deeply below ideal, while there is hope of election and change of government.

Given such circumstances, all that matters now is how we get there. Theoretically, Johnson might resign, but that would entail handing over the number 10 keys to Jeremy Corbyn or another figure, and after a political life planning to get there, it seems like a remote possibility.

Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid

An embarrassing kiss and a lost longing

So why the vehemence? Why, even now, is Johnson tweeting that there will be no delay in Brexit? The truth is that vehemence is a political act in itself. I suspect Downing Street calculates that Mr. Johnson is better off extending, but does everything possible to signal to his supporters that he does not wish to. That he is being dragged there kicking and screaming and, crucially, that those who are dragging are, you guessed, those perverse permanents and the institutions they dominate: parliament, the media and the courts.

The scenario will be set for an election that he clearly wanted to fight for so long: he as the champion of the people versus the "corrupt" political institutions of which he has been a long-standing member, but beyond which he now wants to stand.

Boris Johnson is joined by his girlfriend Carrie Symonds after giving his speech
Image:
Boris Johnson and girlfriend Carrie Symonds after he made his speech at the party conference

An extension would destroy any remaining excuse for Corbyn and opposition parties not to agree to an election (although there may still be some resistance). After that, the number 10 strategists think they will finally be able to go to the country, they argue that they were meant to extend, that the cost of not doing so would have been a Corbyn government, and that if Johnson gets the majority, he hopes there will be no more. extensions and the EU will have to deal with it without a hand tied behind its back.

He knows he can afford to do this in terms of party, because unlike Theresa May, there is no King Brexiter on the water to challenge his position. He is safe internally. But with the country, it's a riskier proposition. The force he continues to employ can generate a huge reaction. Most people pay no attention to the daily events of politics, but they do realize big moments, especially when it involves the personal integrity of a politician or when a politician attaches everything to a particular subject or principle, only to be resilient later: John Major never recovered from Great Britain by dropping from ERM, Tony Blair from WMD, Gordon Brown from election he never was, Nick Clegg from kickbacks and Theresa May from Brexit's first extension. A second extension may also damage Johnson: a million split-screen moments when he said one thing but did another that broke his reputation.

But that may not happen: his base may stay with him for fear of Remainer's suitors to his throne. And in a highly fragmented election, that foundation may be all he needs. He may appear mistreated and bent, but a little less mistreated than everyone else. In fact, it has few other options.

And therefore, don't be surprised if government documents say one thing while ministers say another. I suspect it's literally Downing Street's strategy. The only really damaging and surprising thing about today was that it let the cat out of the bag.

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