For a months now there have been arguments about what the government has really been doing. In Amber Rudd’s resignation letter she said she believed that the government was no longer working towards a deal, but was instead focusing all its efforts on no deal preparations. And yet today a deal seems to be within touching distance.
It has caught many people off guard, both the government’s friends and its opponents. Everyone is eager to see the text of the agreement being thrashed out in Brussels. If he is successful the rewards could be very great. Earlier in the day ComRes released a new poll showing that when asked to choose between the three choices, twenty percent chose to leave without a deal, thirty percent with a deal and forty-two percent chose to remain (and the remainder were don’t knows). If he can get a large enough chunk of that fifty percent who believe that Britain should Leave, either with or without a deal, then he may find that he can return to Parliament with a significant majority after an election. But, for Boris Johnson, it is not a situation without its own inherent dangers.
A leak of Conservative election literature to the BBC earlier today indicates that part of the original strategy was to fight a general election before leaving the European Election. Despite the cast iron assurances Boris Johnson had given that he will see Brexit happen by the 31st of October, an election before resolving Brexit had its advantages. It provided a context in which the opposition parties could have been characterised as the parties of Remain, with the Conservatives as the sole credible party of Leave, thus galvanizing the Leave voter base that won the EU referendum.
If, on the other hand, Boris Johnson were to pass a Withdrawal Bill through Parliament, it might have the effect of taking the sting out of the Brexit debate. This will be welcome relief to the hundred and fifty or so Labour MPs who have seats in Leave voting constituencies. With Brexit temporarily parked on the sidelines, they may hope for a reassertion of traditional party loyalties. It is exactly what happened after the 2016 referendum, when many Labour Leave voters returned to Labour believing that the referendum had settled the issue. If Boris Johnson passes the yet-to-materialise Withdrawal Agreement, Labour will hope that the same will follow.
The reality is that we are many years away from the Brexit process coming to an end. The next election will help shape Brexit as much as the previous one.