Kuenssberg: Is PM's Brexit deadline impossible?

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

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In the last six days you might have been enraged, you might have been shocked, you might have been excited, or you might have just shrugged your shoulders.

But we are watching a conflict over an issue that is based on what one cabinet minister described as "love and passion" - politically, at least.

The grinding three years of the previous period of Brexit conflict has been superseded in the last week by a hyper-speed helter-skelter, with a new administration, long aware their stance could end up in a battle in the courts.

As MPs reluctantly pack up for a break of five weeks after the prime minister sent them packing, can we conclude anything lasting from this bout?

Boris Johnson has undeniably had a rude awakening of how Parliament will respond to him.

It's been a shocker in terms of early defeats for the new prime minister, an unsurprising but dramatic series of clashes between a leader who wants to keep the option of leaving the EU without a deal on the table, and most MPs who don't want to allow him to open that Pandora's box.

Number 10 has also indulged in tactics that have alarmed many Conservatives, including some of Boris Johnson's team who sit around his cabinet table.

If you had followed the way that Vote Leave ran its campaign, the subsequent appointment of Dominic Cummings and some of its former staffers, again, that shouldn't surprise you.

But there are unquestionably plenty of Conservative MPs who have been horrified that it's this version of Boris Johnson, a politician with many guises, that's in charge at Number 10.

And some of those tactics have been, at least temporarily, destructive, with a voluntary surrender of his own majority. (Interestingly, there's a whisper that a way back could soon emerge for some of the 21 MPs who were booted out.)

That "long shopping list" of errors, according to one member of the cabinet, means the prime minister's self-imposed Halloween Brexit deadline looks further out of reach than a few short days ago.

Is it impossible? Absolutely not.

There is the possibility, still, of a deal, with Number 10 today stressing it was still their primary aim.

Whispers again about a Northern Ireland only backstop, and a bigger role for the Stormont assembly, if it ever gets up and running, are doing the rounds.

Some MPs, and some diplomats are more cheerful now about the possibilities of it working out.

If you squint you can see the chance of an agreement being wrapped up at pace, although it seems the chances range somewhere between slim and negligible.

It is still possible too, as Number 10 bombastically suggests, that they could just ignore the demand from Parliament that he seeks a delay if there is no-deal.

This is not as straightforward as ignoring a parking ticket, of course.

But if the prime minister asks formally, but politically makes it clear he doesn't want it and would do nothing with it, would the EU really force such a policy on an unwilling government with no political reason given? What if the EU was to offer only an extension of several years?

These are not predictions, but they are imponderables, talking about a political landscape that is some weeks off, and there are all sorts of political gymnastics to come before then that could again turn the situation on its head.

And for all that Parliament protests, some Brexiteers, including in Number 10, glory in 'evidence' they could use in an eventual election campaign that tries to pit MPs against the people.

No question, however, it's been a bruising period for the prime minister, which could be the beginning of a very rapid downfall.

But just as so many things in politics have changed in the last few years, some of the old truths remain.

A week is still a long time in politics - the seven weeks before Halloween another age.

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