Boris Johnson was running out of time and options when he met the European Union’s (EU) rulers on Monday.
He met EU Commission president Jean-Claude Junker for the first time since becoming prime minister in July.
Johnson’s visit ended in chaos and humiliation after noisy protests left him backing out of a press conference. Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg’s prime minister, spoke next to an empty lecturn and blasted Johnson.
Johnson had already ruled out any delay beyond the scheduled leave date of 31 October. He wrote in the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday, “We will leave by that date—deal or no deal.
“Yes, it may now be harder to get a deal, since MPs seem set on tying the government’s hand behind its back.
“But we are working flat out to get one.”
Johnson has promised to deliver Brexit on 31 October. He has calculated that he could win back right wing voters from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in a general election.
While his strategy has played well with sections of the Tory base, it has deepened the party’s divisions.
There will continue to be lurches in policy as Johnson seeks to balance business demands for a deal and the Brexit Party’s pressure to rebuff any EU demands.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab refused to rule out trying to side step the “Benn Act”—the legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit.
He said the Tories would “always behave lawfully,” but that they would have to look at “all the variables” and the “precise implications very carefully”.
The meeting came as the Supreme Court was set to hold a hearing this week on whether the “prorogation”—suspension—of parliament is lawful.
Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings apparently “joked” that the Tories could suspend parliament again if the ruling didn’t go their way.
Another Tory split erupted on Monday about what would happen if Britain and the EU managed to negotiate a deal.
Under Theresa May’s negotiated Brexit deal there was supposed to be a 21-month transition period after Britain left the EU on 31 March.
There would now only be a 14-month transition period because of the delay under May.
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay said the government could now extend it—but that was quickly ruled out by Raab. And the EU said that it would take at least eight months to put together a negotiating team for a trade deal—and two years to negotiate it.
Labour and union leaders should use the Tory splits to force out Johnson’s government.
Action on the streets, workplaces and campuses over class issues can unite Leave and Remain-supporting working class people.
One opportunity is the People’s Assembly demonstration against the Tory party conference in Manchester on Sunday 29 September.
Reballots have opened the way to bigger struggle