Ah, Parliament is back in session. Finally the news doesn't seem quite as drab. Where once a single Brexit story would run for the entire week, now we have multiple variations of the same story in a single day! Bless Parliament being back in session.
In what turned out to be quite a hectic week in the world of Brexit, much of the news faded quite quickly, with May releasing evidence regarding the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury and the internal issues of the Labour Party once again stealing so much attention. However, the week had several significant developments. The GMB union came out in favour of a people's vote; Barnier and Raab kept up their promise of 'continuous talks', meeting again in Brussels to try and work through the stickiest points of Brexit; and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor and most significant voice in the EU, addressed a finance conference in Frankfurt to issue some insights into the German thinking over Brexit.
Amongst all this excitement, where do we find ourselves with Brexit this week?
Suspense in September
As it might turn out, throughout September, despite my excitement about Parliament returning to session, Brexit news may have to be taken with a large pinch of salt. As Bloomberg's Ian Wishart pointed out this week, EU diplomats and negotiators suspect there is still much more politicking to come from the UK before a deal is on the radar, and are waiting to see the results of conference season to fully prepare themselves for what lies ahead.
The view in Europe is that once, or if, May gets through conference season then the key pieces of the negotiations will start to fall into place. This isn't just wishful thinking, conference could see the crucifixion or veneration of May, and, if she comes out reasserted, it will make the EU and UK negotiations much easier. May might yet have to put up with a leadership challenge, with Boris, as discussed below, already making noises in that direction, and conference could yet become the scene of the Tory implosion. Until then, the EU is approaching it with caution.
Boris Kicking Up the Dust
Kicking the week off, aspirant 'big beast' Boris Johnson wrote scathingly in his Telegraph column about May's proposed Chequers plan for Brexit. After resigning from the cabinet over his objections to Chequers, Boris once again sought to reassert his self-confected position as the clear sighted leader who can see the folly at foot with May's Brexit plans.
No. 10 limbered up immediately to slap Boris down, stating that he "offered no new ideas”. Which, of course, as always, is correct. One is never going to accuse Boris of being an ideas or policy politician. Boris is an image politician, his brand in politics is nothing more than himself and the image of a great leader in waiting which he has desperately attempted to instil into the public mind.
The article itself did, as No. 10 said, offer no new ideas or solutions. What was perhaps most offensive, was Boris' use of hackneyed war metaphors - 'going into battle waving the white flag’. For instance - in another one of his endless attempts to conjure an image of himself using the nostalgic language of war - of battle, of sacrifice, willing Brexit to be seen as some new D-Day or Dunkirk. And all the while, in this confected analogy, he casts himself as a Churchill, ready to lead the country to victory against our European aggressors. Sadly for Boris, though, this is not 1918 nor 1945, this is neither Versailles nor Potsdam, and, at the moment, he is only a failed cabinet minister whom many of his colleagues and members of the public don't trust.
With rumours circulating that his next column will be used to relaunch his leadership campaign, which failed so spectacularly in 2016, Boris seemingly is looking set to kick up the dust on the road to Brexit. Unfortunately, as it was revealed that he, once again, treated marriage fidelity with the same seriousness as his political beliefs, whether his Churchill act will be able to dislodge May from No. 10, or whether or not the public, 59% of whom believe him not up to the job of being Prime Minister, will tolerate more political instability because of his self-serving ambitions, seems at this moment highly unlikely.
As the prospect of a leadership challenge at conference does remain, although it is likely to come later down the road, keep an eye on Boris, Mogg and Davis over the next few weeks to see how they position themselves, or how they try to position May, before the Tories gather in Birmingham at the end of the month.