I’m one of those geeks who listen to British political comedy podcasts every week. (Do a search on your favorite podcatcher for “Friday Night Comedy from BBC.” You’ll thank me later.) One constant theme over the past couple of years was the relentless mocking of former Prime Minister Theresa May and her endless trips across the channel to try to strike a Brexit deal with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. She basically kept making the same pitch (with small, cosmetic variations) to the EU and kept getting shot down.
Now Boris Johnson is in charge, and he’s promised to succeed where his predecessor failed. That effort kicks off today with a lunch meeting between Juncker and BoJo. So will the EU like the sound of this pitch any better? (Associated Press)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have his first meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday in search of a longshot Brexit deal.
The two men are scheduled to hold talks over a lunch of snails and salmon in Luxembourg, amid claims from the U.K. — though not the EU — that a deal is in sight.
Johnson says the U.K. will leave the EU on the scheduled Oct. 31 date, with or without a withdrawal agreement. But he insists he can strike a revised divorce deal with the bloc in time for an orderly departure. The agreement made by his predecessor, Theresa May, was rejected three times by Britain’s Parliament.
Heading into this lunch, Johnson has been leaking stories across UK media that a deal is imminent, or at least close. The AP does a good job of scouring various officials from the European Commission and the EU Parliament, both on and off the record, trying to find someone over there who also thinks a deal is in the offing. They failed. Nobody on that side of the Channel seems to know what Boris is talking about.
You’ll also note that Juncker is serving snails for lunch. Is that a negotiating tactic or just an attempt at a minor level of torture? But I digress…
While I’d love to see Johnson somehow pull this off, at the moment he seems to be living in a state of denial of reality. He’s telling everyone that he knows how to make this deal happen, but there’s still no agreement on the Irish Backstop. Without that, the EU has made it pretty clear that they’re not ready to sign off on whatever plan is offered.
Meanwhile, Johnson continues to insist that he will take the UK out of the EU on October 31st come hell or high water. But Parliament recently passed a law requiring a three-month review after that date if no deal is achieved. BoJo seems to be showing his cards on that point, with one of his spokesmen saying that they are reviewing the law and basically looking for loopholes.
If Johnson’s only strategy at this point is to try to find an escape hatch in a law that was already passed in both chambers, his prospects don’t look that great. But let’s keep in mind one of BoJo’s more famous quotes from back in the day. “I have as much chance of becoming Prime Minister as of being decapitated by a frisbee or of finding Elvis” And yet here he is. Maybe an improbable leader will manage to strike an improbable deal tonight.