"This is the moment of truth." That's how Boris Johnson put it in our interview this week at the Conservative Party conference, just before formally presenting his new Brexit offer to Brussels.
He added: "In the end, the country must be able to govern its own customs. If you leave the EU, you will need to administer your own trade policy, administer your own customs.
"So we have to find a way to do that. I won't deny that this is the hard part."
Difficult or impossible?
When the Conservative Party conference ended, the Prime Minister sent his chief negotiator David Frost to Brussels with a letter confirming that he was starting two years of tough negotiations on how to prevent a difficult border on the island of Ireland and wanted Brussels to agree to it. your decision. new proposal in the next ten days.
United Kingdom made & # 39; great offer & # 39; in retreat – Johnson
At the center of his plan, he dismissed the retreat agreed by Theresa May and replaced it with two borders.
Getting Northern Ireland out of the customs union is Johnson's red line.
He insists that the United Kingdom must be able to set an independent trade policy after leaving the EU – not possible if the United Kingdom remains in the EU Customs Union – and Northern Ireland will not be left behind.
This means a new customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
But in a concession to the EU, he also proposes that Northern Ireland remain under EU single market regulations for manufactured goods, agriculture and food to reduce the need for Irish border checks.
'No border or Northern Ireland checks'
Instead there will be control of goods crossing the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
In addition to the two border proposals, Johnson is also insisting that his plan does not require any new physical border infrastructure in Ireland. It would be the first world. It is a huge question.
So – a set of demands and a timeline that might make some think he really doesn't want a deal.
Boris Johnson has a tough negotiation process ahead
But those close to him insist that they do. His voting license campaign team that took over Downing Street is not, insists one ally, Nigel Farage's mindset to pursue any deal.
Johnson knows his best bet in winning a general election is in the polls that removed the UK from the EU with a deal. He would enjoy a jump in research and could return to talk about domestic policies.
And despite all the harsh talk of the prime minister's speech – that this would be the final offer "accept or leave" – the tone of Johnson's speech at the conference and his letter to the EU were very different.
'No border or Northern Ireland checks'
The UK government expects Brussels to take at least this proposal as a starting point for a negotiation.
And to that end, note whether Johnson is going to Berlin or Paris in the next 48 hours.
He wants Brussels to enter the "tunnel" – through which legal teams begin to work out the details of a deal.
"We may not get there," a number admitted yesterday.
What can the EU do if it engages? The UK government hopes Brussels will revive the idea of a "Northern Ireland-only foothold" where the province remains in the EU's customs and regulatory zone.
Prime Minister dismantled the barrier
But in a pre-emptive strike, UK government sources say this is not a departure and Northern Ireland will not be left behind. The whole of the United Kingdom will leave the customs territory.
Johnson explained clearly in his letter: "It has always been a key point for this government for the UK to leave the EU customs union at the end of the transitional period.
"We must do it fully. Trade policy control is fundamental to our vision."
Brussels – and Dublin – at least agreed to participate. Michel Barnier, the EU's top negotiator, said Wednesday night that the EU would try to "work with what we have on the table".
But he also claims that much work remains to be done to achieve the three rear objectives – no frontiers, Ireland's economy and single market protection.
Both sides are clear that no deal will be their choice. With 29 days to go before leaving the UK from the EU, there is still a huge amount of work and distance to travel on both sides to avoid a deal.
But at least they are still talking. The next ten days are now critical.