Downing Street sources are refusing to rule out the possibility that Boris Johnson may resign rather than seek an extension of the Brexit deadline with Brussels.
But won’t that make the Conservative government’s domestic situation even worse?
A Downing Street spokesperson has declined to rule out the possibility of a resignation – although reporters were told it was “three or four steps beyond where we are now”.
BoJob himself has said it is “not a hypothesis I am willing to contemplate”.
But faced with the alternative – of having to go to Brussels and seek an extension of the Brexit deadline beyond October 31, which would be a humiliating climbdown from his fundamental position on Brexit, he said he would “rather be dead in a ditch”.
The current situation is that a law destined to receive Royal Assent on Monday will require him to do exactly that.
Mr Johnson thinks he can slither out of it if MPs let him call a snap election, to take place on October 15. He and his advisers reckon it would allow him to obtain a Tory majority large enough to vote through a no-deal outcome if no agreement is reached at a Brussels summit two days later (October 17).
But Parliament won’t let him have his election.
He has already failed to secure support for it in one vote, and is expected to fail again when he asks on Monday (September 9). Then Parliament will be prorogued – as he himself requested – until October 14.
There will be nothing he can do about it and he may see resignation as the only choice, having failed to achieve any of his aims and being unlikely to achieve them in the days remaining before the date set for Brexit (October 31).
But this may be seen as a betrayal of his party.
The Conservatives are currently doing paradoxically well in the opinion polls, which are still reflecting a so-called “Boris bounce” – an improvement in Conservative standing since BoJob’s appointment as Tory leader and prime minister.
His hardline claim to be taking the UK out of the EU, with or without a deal, by October 31 has attracted Brextremist voters back from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
But this lead will evaporate of he fails to honour his promise – or if he resigns and makes way for someone else to lead the party, and the country.
He really is caught between a rock and a hard place. And the irony is that he put himself there.
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