Boris Johnson’s Brexit gamble is fraught with risk

Today Boris Johnson will set out the UK’s negotiating objectives for the next stage of Brexit.

As it stands the government’s position appears to be a long and repetitive variation of ways of saying  “no”, “never” or “not on your nelly.”

As the  EU published its objectives on Tuesday  it is not hard to work out the flash points.

There is a huge gulf between the two sides on  state aid, competition and dispute resolution.

Downing Street has made clear the non-binding political declaration agreed last year in which the UK committed to a ‘level playing field’ with the EU on rules and regulations expired the moment Johnson was returned with an 80-seat majority.

On fishing the EU has tightened its wording to make an agreement even harder to achieve.

The UK also stands accused of trying to wriggle out of its commitments on Northern Ireland.

And even if these big ticket issues can be resolved the talks could still founder if, for instance, Greece kicks up a fuss on the repatriation of the Elgin Marbles.

With all trade agreements you have haka-style bravado and posturing  from the two sides before the negotiations begin in earnest.

But Downing Street is increasingly bullish that in the event the EU refuses to compromise it can  ride out the consequences that flow from a no deal.

This is where Johnson’s gambit flies or flops. 

When asked about the implications of a no deal Brexit ministers resort to the euphemism of their being “bumps in the road.”

They are rarely challenged to spell out what theses bumps entail. 

How many jobs could be put at risk? What will be the cost in terms of tax revenues which pay for public services? What will be the security implications for Britain?

Johnson will try to harness public sentiment against what will portrayed as EU bullying and intransigence.

In some instances this accusation against Brussels will be justified, in others it will be a smokescreen to hide the UK’s own failings.

The danger for Johnson is the mood in the court of public opinion could swiftly change is the economic price is particularly severe.

Encouraging the country to wave a union flag in protest may not be sufficient to blind people to the failures of statecraft.

Today marks the birthday of the Labour Party. 

In its 120 years it has been in power for just 30 of them. Even Charlton Athletic has a better played-won ratio. 

I’ve written  a potted history of Labour’s first 12 decades here  and why the anniversary is a bitter sweet moment.

Keir Starmer has  written for the Mirror  on the challenge facing Labour if it wants to win back power.

Starmer, who is the favourite to win the leadership race, is shifting his message from the need for the party to unite to the need for the party to start taking the fight to the Conservatives.

Today's agenda:

9.30am – Cabinet Office questions in the Commons.

9.30am – Electoral Commission publishes data on election spending by the main parties.

10.30am – Jacob Rees-Mogg update on House of Commons business.

11.30am (approx) – Statement by Michael Gove on Brexit negotiation objectives.

1pm (approx) – Debate in the Commons to mark St David’s Day.

2pm – Health Secretary Matt Hancock speech to Nuffield Health summit.

8pm – Sky News hosts a Labour leadership debate.

What I am reading:

Rafael Behr on how Labour has still not learned from its mistakes

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