Ten things for the summer break


After months of gradual atrophy, simmering frustration and pretty toxic arguments, the inhabitants of the Westminster village are slowly disappearing for a while - whether to help constituents, take to a sun lounger, or a mixture of the two.

When the place fills up again on the other side of the summer, if the last 48 hours are anything to go by, events might be even more dramatic, and wildly unpredictable.

Before I sign off for a few weeks, here are few thoughts about how it might unfold.

It's been a long old year, so forgive for putting them in the form of a list. In no particular order, here are 10 things worth noting as this session comes to a close.

1) The new prime minister is going to do a fair bit of darting about the UK in his first week or so in office, in an effort to show that he cares about the Union, and not just the south east of England that sucks up so much of the country's political power, resource and focus.

2) Mr Johnson is not likely to do the same around multiple European capitals, at least not any time soon.

Calls and communications with other leaders are already under way, though. Chancellor Angela Merkel has invited him to Berlin, and President Emmanuel Macron has invited him to France. But Number 10 right now does not want to look like it will budge, and neither does the EU.

3) He does want to take the country out with a Brexit deal. From multiple conversations with different insiders, that is crystal clear. Downing Street is not plotting a no-deal conspiracy.

4) The PM is, however, absolutely willing to take us out of the EU without formal arrangements in place, if needs be.

And there is an absolute awareness in Number 10 that the chances of that are not to be, as he claimed, "a million to one", but pretty small - they might, perhaps, be more accurately described as one in a million.

5) Mr Johnson's team's political and ideological calculation is very simple - keeping the promise to leave is more important to them than the potential damage of leaving without a deal. It's a fundamental, historic and risky judgement, but it is clear.

6) The government plans a huge focus now on trying to prepare for and manage those risks and, in the next few weeks, a new structure of doing so is likely to emerge, with Theresa May's labyrinthine committee systems being put to bed.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Michael Gove's a key member of Mr Johnson's team

7) The key ministers in all this are likely to be Michael Gove, reunited with his controversial policy chief - now, of course, Boris Johnson's senior adviser - Dominic Cummings, and Chancellor Sajid Javid.

8) There will be a big-spending and tax-cutting Budget, whatever happens in early talks with the EU. It might even be in the first couple of weeks back in Parliament in September, and if not, likely soon after the Conservative Party conference.

Mr Johnson's team know that Labour is in a tricky position on Brexit too, and if the Tories also turn on the spending taps, they hope it's harder for them to oppose.

9) The timing of that Budget is crucial, as it's just weeks before the first official EU summit in the middle of October. Note, too, that summit is less than a fortnight before the 31 October deadline - very little time afterwards, therefore, for MPs to try to stop a prime minister intent on taking us out without a deal if the talks have been inconclusive.

10) Before that summit I expect Number 10 will do everything it can to stop Parliament passing a law that would block no deal.

If it does, and there's no deal from the EU, Boris Johnson would not hesitate to call an election if it's the only way.

Just like leaving without a deal, it's not what his team wants. But again, sticking to the Halloween deadline to leave is what matters to them above all else.

If risking an election is what it takes to do so, as things stand at the moment, it's entirely likely that after only a few months in Number 10, that is what the new prime minister would choose to do.

Image copyright Reuters

There are, of course, multiple scenarios - lots of things that could go on that list, lots of ifs and buts.

Politics is febrile and unpredictable at the moment. Predictions very likely to be wrong. But if you've been following all of this on here for the last few months, or even years, you might feel a bit exhausted by it.

I hope, like me you're getting a bit of respite in the summer, it might be even more frenetic on the other side.

Thanks for joining me on here - more in September.

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