Brexit: Has Britain left the EU yet?

hand-holding-brexit-sign-eu-referendum

No.

The UK voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016 and was due to leave on 29 March 2019 following two years of negotiations.

Theresa May tried – and failed – three times to get the deal she agreed with Brussels passed by MPs. Her failure prompted her resignation as prime minister and Brexit being pushed back to 31 October. Boris Johnson has replaced her and insists Britain will leave on that date “do or die”.

The new prime minister wants to negotiate a new Brexit deal, but says he is prepared to leave without a deal if necessary. With less than 20 days to go, Sky News is tracking his progress.

Sky News is assessing all the twists and turns on a daily basis, giving you the lowdown on how much closer Brexit is to happening and, crucially, with or without a deal.

Brexit – 9 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Boris Johnson is facing a bruising showdown with MPs as he attempts to drive his EU withdrawal agreement Bill through the Commons in three days, accused of “ramming it through” without proper debate.

As well as some fierce battles over amendments to the Bill, the Prime Minister faces attempts by opponents to defeat the Government motion setting out the timetable for the three days of debate.

Under fire from MPs, the Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said if the timetable motion was defeated the Bill would not get through Parliament in time for the UK to leave the EU with a deal on October 31.

“People who do not vote for the programme motion will not be voting for Brexit on October 31,” he said.

But despite his warning, the Government faces the real possibility of defeat on the timetable motion, with the Democratic Unionist Party’s 10 MPs threatening to vote against the Prime Minister again, as they did on Saturday.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 10 days to go

By Kate McCann, political correspondent

After Super-Saturday turned out to be less super than expected this week is shaping up to be another crucial moment in the UK’s bid to leave the EU.

The government will try and secure a simple vote on the deal today, but it is unlikely to be granted by the Speaker as it has already been subject to extensive debate over the weekend.

As a result, MPs are gearing up to tweak his plans when the government brings legislation forward to enshrine the deal in law by the 31 October.

They could decide to block plans to extend Commons hours in order to get everything done in time – arguing it is being rushed.

They could also add new requirements, including a customs union and second referendum. Labour has declared it will do this.

Would it matter? Potentially yes, if a second vote were passed – although the numbers look tight.

If the prime minister can’t get the time he needs to get the bill through it will be very difficult to leave on the 31 as he has pledged – but an extension is more likely than no deal.

This of course could all change – we could even see an election called.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the chance of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October has not changed.

Brexit – 11 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

Victory for Boris Johnson appeared achingly, tantalisingly close on the first Saturday sitting of Parliament since 1982 and yet it was so far.

As a result of the government being forced to abandon its meaningful vote, the prime minister was obliged to send a letter to the EU asking for an extension.

That famous ditch he said he’d rather die in is completely vacant.

Though the majority for his deal may now exist, the irony is the prime minister yet cannot access it, as he has lost control.

The Speaker will likely say he cannot bring a meaningful vote on the deal back on Monday, Brexit legislation will be repeatedly amended, potentially to include items which he will not find acceptable (like a customs union) and the DUP, who he has now alienated, are furious and likely to place their votes in all kinds of inconvenient places.

In other words, Downing St has once again lost control.

PROGRESS REPORT: The chances of the UK leaving the EU on 31 October, deal or no deal, have fallen in the last 24 hours because of a request for a Brexit extension.

Brexit – 12 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

This is it. The big one.

Or is it? The history of Brexit is peppered with “buts” and “maybes” and “not quites.” So it will be today.

Once again, this latest spanner has been lobbed by Oliver Letwin, with an amendment in his name. It essentially defers the final vote on the deal until all related Brexit legislation has passed.

The one iron rule of Brexit is that if the can be kicked, the moment of decision deferred, it will be.

Therefore it seems very likely that the Letwin amendment will pass too. In that case it will be up to the government to decide what to do, whether to press ahead with the vote, including the amendment, or abandon the whole thing.

I suspect they will press on, they will score a nominal victory for the deal but one which doesn’t mean much. Crucially though, the delay, in order to comply with the Benn Act, the government would have to ask for an extension from the EU.

Whatever happens, the numbers will be tight. Very tight. There has been much speculation about Labour MPs backing the deal.

But don’t bet against the Labour’ whips office. They’ve kept rebellions down the the bare minimum in the past. They may yet do so again.

Either way the definitive and potentially final action looks likely to shift to next week.

PROGRESS REPORT: The chances of the UK leaving the EU on 31 October, deal or no deal, have fallen in the last 24 hours because of the Letwin amendment.

Brexit – 13 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Boris Johnson says he is “very confident” MPs will back his last-minute Brexit deal in the special Saturday sitting of the House of Commons. And despite the Democratic Unionist Party withholding its support so far, the numbers seem to be moving in the prime minister’s direction.

Speaking to Sky News, the DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “Saturday is not the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end.”

The party’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said the prime minister had been “too eager by far to get a deal at any cost” and that if he had held his nerve and held out he would have won better concessions from the EU.

But other wavering MPs and former rebels show increasing signs of moving towards backing Mr Johnson’s deal.

Nicholas Soames predicted many of the 21 Tory MPs who lost the whip after a rebellion would back the prime minister this time.

Many of the so-called Spartans, the hardline Brexiteers who have consistently voted against a deal, are also switching to support Mr Johnson’s agreement.

And the Labour Party, deeply divided over whether to back a second referendum, appears to be heading for up to 20 of its MPs defying Jeremy Corbyn and voting for Mr Johnson’s deal.

As a result, it will be very close on Saturday. But the momentum is with the prime minister and, among the MPs whose support he needs to win the historic vote, only the 10 DUP MPs seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITH a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 14 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Speaking to Conservative MPs, Boris Johnson likened his efforts to reach a Brexit deal to climbing Mount Everest, claiming he was in sight of the summit. He told Tory MPs in a brief speech at the 1922 Committee: “We are at the Hillary step. The summit is not far. But at the moment there is still cloud around the summit.”

(On this occasion, he wasn’t referring to Hilary Benn, but Sir Edmund Hillary, leader of the historic conquest of Everest in 1953.)

The clouds mentioned by the Prime Minister include not a failure to win the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, but also some disagreements with the European Union.

Earlier, in less colourful language, Mr Johnson told his Cabinet: “There’s a chance of securing a good deal. But we are not there yet. There remaining outstanding issues.”

Later, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit spokesman, emerged from Brexit talks in Brussels declaring there were possibilities for an agreement, “but it’s not done yet”.

He said there were outstanding issues on customs, but there had been a “fundamental shift” by the UK from its position a week ago. And he concluded it was possible there could be an agreement “on the table” at the EU leaders’ summit.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITH a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 15 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

In a race against time, UK and EU officials worked long into the night in the European Commission HQ in Brussels, in a bid to reach a Brexit deal. Their goal: A draft text of an agreement that can be put to EU ambassadors and then to European leaders at a summit in Brussels 24 hours later.

It’s understood the negotiating teams have agreed on a customs border in the Irish Sea, a big concession by Boris Johnson and a plan rejected by his predecessor Theresa May.

Back at Westminster, the Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster and the party’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds met the Prime Minister for 90 minutes for the second night running and then declared: “Gaps remain and further work is required.”

The Financial Times is reporting that the DUP is haggling over a big cash payment for Northern Ireland to help secure her support for a deal, asking for “billions not millions”, according to the FT.

Amid growing optimism, Downing Street insiders are urging caution, claiming talk of a deal is premature and there are still hurdles to be overcome. But the PM hopes to outline a deal to his Cabinet and then to Conservative MPs.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITH a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 16 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

After 90 minutes of talks between Boris Johnson and Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds of the Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP leaders left Downing Street tight-lipped, suggesting they and the Prime Minister may be edging towards an agreement on the Irish border and customs arrangements.

Mr Johnson is desperately trying to persuade the DUP to back a deal, knowing that if they do, the hardline Brexiteer Tory MPs in the European Research Group will support it too.

In another sign of potential developments ahead of Thursday’s crucial EU summit, the regular Tuesday meeting of the Cabinet has been postponed until Wednesday afternoon, to allow for a more detailed update on the EU negotiations.

And after an optimistic mood at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, the Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay is joining the group on day two of their meeting, suggesting the Government is hopeful of progress towards a deal.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITH a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 17 days to go

By Tom Rayner, political correspondent

Sunday saw the first official indications of how the intensified talks between UK and EU negotiators have progressed over the weekend.

Boris Johnson briefed his cabinet in a conference call, while the EU’s chief negotiator Michele Barnier spoke to European ambassadors.

Both sides appear to have given very similar accounts of where things are – in short, that while talks have not yet broken down, there is yet to be a breakthrough.

The prime minister said there was a “pathway” to a deal ahead of the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels on Thursday, but that there was still a “significant amount of work to do”.

A statement from the EU Commission echoed that appraisal, saying “A lot of work remains to be done.”

While Mr Johnson’s briefing to his ministers has not, so far, resulted in leaks about the details of the negotiations, EU diplomatic sources have suggested the dispute over customs arrangements in Northern Ireland remains the major hurdle.

As MPs return to Westminster for the Queen’s Speech, they will be watching developments in Brussels closely as they prepare for what could be a tumultuous and highly unpredictable week.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the chances of the UK leaving the EU with a deal on 31 October are unchanged.

Brexit – 18 days to go

By Tom Rayner, political correspondent

Friday’s confirmation that talks in Brussels were to intensify led to the sense the chances of a deal had increased, but Saturday has seen something of a reality check.

It wasn’t down to any briefing coming out from the negotiators, but instead comments made back in Westminster.

Speaking to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the Westminster leader of the DUP said any Brexit deal that saw Northern Ireland stay in the customs union “cannot work”.

That is not how Number 10 would likely describe the effect of the proposals, but while it is understood Northern Ireland would indeed leave the customs union, it would nonetheless be required to collect tariffs on the EU’s behalf at a border in the Irish Sea.

Even if the EU were to accept such an arrangement, it is far from certain that it is a definition if leaving the customs union the DUP could swallow.

And while the DUP response is unclear, so to is that of the hardline Brexiteers in Mr Johnson’s own Conservative Party who appear to be working on the basis that a deal acceptable to the DUP is acceptable to them.

Perhaps this is why arch-Eurosceptic and Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has written in the Sunday Telegraph urging Brexiteers to back the prime minister’s efforts to get a deal.

“Compromise will inevitably be needed,” he writes, but adds “as a Leaver, Boris can be trusted”.

In a further sign that the government may be seeking to reduce mounting concern in the Brexiteer ranks with some expectation management, a Downing Street source released a statement late on Saturday night emphasising any agreement was still some way off.

“We’ve always wanted a deal. It is good to see progress, but we will wait to see if this is a genuine breakthrough. We are a long way from a final deal and the weekend and next week remain critical to leaving with a deal on October 31st. We remain prepared to leave without a deal on October 31st.”

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the chances of the UK leaving the EU with a deal on 31 October have marginally decreased.

Brexit – 19 days to go

By Tom Rayner, political correspondent

There is a particular piece of Brussels parlance that Brexit-watchers have been looking out for all week. “The tunnel” is the EU diplo-speak for the final moments of a negotiation, the culmination of efforts where things really step up a gear.

It is only entered once it’s been established that there are broad parameters for agreement.

With the outline of an accord in place, it is the moment the two sides shut themselves away to thrash out the details.

Although the phrase was studiously avoided in the public pronouncements of the key players on Friday, the fact both sides confirmed they had agreed to “intensify negotiations” was read to mean the tunnel had been entered.

On the face of it, it is a remarkable turnaround from where things were earlier in the week.

The briefings from Downing Street after Boris Johnson’s phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel had indicated any chance of a negotiated solution had been lost.

Now it appears the “final offer” of a new plan for Northern Ireland that Mr Johnson put forward just over a week ago has been adapted once again, and may have prised open the possibility for agreement.

The details of the UK proposal, which could see Northern Ireland leave the customs union but continue to collect EU tariffs on its behalf, is set out by Sky’s deputy political editor Sam Coates.

Talks will continue over the weekend, with ambassadors of the 27 remaining EU countries expecting to be updated on Sunday evening.

That update is likely to be leaked pretty quickly, which means we should know by the end of the weekend whether the negotiators are likely to emerge from the tunnel with the basis of a renegotiated settlement ahead of the EU leaders’ summit on Thursday, or whether the whole thing has come crashing off the tracks.

Perhaps it will be something in between. And all that before whatever is negotiated makes contact with MPs in Westminster.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is marginally more likely to leave the EU with a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 20 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

After a surprisingly upbeat summit, Boris Johnson and Irish PM Leo Varadkar agreed – they claimed – that they could see a “pathway to a possible deal”.

Speaking after the talks, Mr Varadkar sounded optimistic.

“I think it is possible for us to come to an agreement, to have a treaty to allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion, and to have that done by the end of October,” he said, although he added: “But there’s many a slip between cup and lip.”

According to The Irish Times, there has been significant movement from the British side on customs, which could mean a revival of the backstop or a customs border in the Irish Sea.

In the next development, in potentially decisive talks, the Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay is meeting the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.

They are discussing whether there’s enough movement to get more detailed negotiations underway.

But all this is a big turnaround from three days ago, when after a phone call between the Mr Johnson and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Downing Street said a deal was “essentially impossible”.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU with a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 21 days to go

by Rob Powell, political reporter

The number of anonymous Westminster briefings has spiralled this week, leaving newspapers filled with more unknown sources than a Chinese supermarket.

First a deal was definitely off, then maybe on, and now… well, no one seems very sure.

Michel Barnier said on Wednesday agreement was still possible, but it would be difficult.

Given events of the last 48 hours, this seems like a radical understatement.

Hostile briefings from Downing Street against European leaders have sucked the energy out of the deal-making process.

Thursday’s private meeting between Johnson and Varadkar could be the last chance to breathe some life back into proceedings.

But in reality, most people now think there is too much bad blood and too little time.

So what happens if and when talks collapse?

The Scottish courts showed a touch of legal leg today, saying they would rule later this month on the sending of a Brexit extension letter to the EU if the PM can’t strike a deal.

Ministers still coyly claim there is a plan to get round these laws.

As yet though, no cast iron loop holes have materialised.

The covert briefings will no doubt continue over the coming days.

But until something publicly changes – be it a red line, a prime minister or a UK parliament – the chances of Brexit happening at all will keep falling.

PROGRESS REPORT: The chances of the UK leaving the EU on 31 October deal or no deal have fallen in the last 24 hours.

Brexit – 22 days to go

by Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

On a day of two highly significant phone calls, Downing Street claimed Angela Merkel told Boris Johnson in an 8am call that a Brexit deal was now “overwhelmingly unlikely”.

But hours later, after a 40-minute early evening call between Mr Johnson and the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, both No. 10 and Dublin said: “Both sides reiterated their desire to reach a Brexit deal.

Could there be a deal? It looked out of the question after a No. 10 source said after the Merkel phone call that a deal was “essentially impossible not just now but ever”.

But after the second call, London and Dublin both said Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar hoped “to meet in person later this week”. That suggests there might be some hope – however slight – of a deal.

There was neither collaboration nor contradiction of Downing Street’s account of the Merkel phone call, though there were suggestions it was not the sort of language the inscrutable German Chancellor would use.

But Mr Johnson’s critics were scathing. Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer declared: “This is yet another cynical attempt by Number 10 to sabotage the negotiations.”

The most furious response came from the European Council president Donald Tusk, who said: “What’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game.” The future security of the EU and the UK was at stake, he said.

And he added: “You don’t want a deal, you don’t want an extension, you don’t want to revoke, quo vadis?” Which, roughly translated, means: Where are you going?

Where indeed? Earlier, an aggressive No. 10 briefing to the Spectator, widely believed to have come from the PM’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, predicted: “Negotiations will probably end this week” because Leo Varadkar “doesn’t want to negotiate”.

The briefing also claimed No. 10’s plan is to fight an election “on the basis of no more delays, get Brexit done immediately” in order to weaken the appeal of the Brexit Party. There was also a threat that countries who back a Brexit delay will “go to the bottom of the queue”.

Is that the plan? Or, as many MPs are now beginning to suspect, Mr Johnson didn’t have a plan when he became PM and his vow to leave the EU on 31 October, “do or die”, was simply a slogan to win the Tory leadership election rather than a Brexit strategy.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now much more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 23 days to go

by Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Boris Johnson has claimed the European Union has not explained in detail why it objects to his Brexit plan.

Speaking during yet another hospital visit, in Watford this time, the Prime Minister said: “Our proposal is very fair, very reasonable.

“What it does is respect the Good Friday agreement, the peace process in Northern Ireland. It makes sure there’s no hard border, no checks at all at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“It also goes further in allowing Northern Ireland and Ireland in alignment, both for agri-foods, for cattle and so on, but also for industrial goods as well. That’s a big step forward, big advance, big compromise by the UK government.

“What we are saying to our friends is, this is a very generous, fair and reasonable offer that we have made. What we would like to hear from you now is what your thoughts are.

“And if you have issues with any of the proposals that we’ve come up with, then let’s get into the detail and discuss them.”

And then Mr Johnson said: “The issue is, what is the EU’s objection? We haven’t really heard the detail from them about what they think the problems are. It is time for use to get together and really thrash this thing out.”

Really? Mr Johnson has now spoken to several European leaders, the latest being the Prime Ministers of Denmark, Sweden and Poland, who have no doubt voiced their objections.

And last week the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, chaired by Guy Verhofstadt, published a list of objections, including:

  • First, the UK proposals on customs and on regulatory aspects explicitly provide for infrastructure, controls and checks but are unclear as to exactly where and how these would be carried out.
  • Second, the UK proposals would operationally only be worked out in detail by the EU and the UK, or in the UK unilaterally, during the fourteen-month transition period. This does not provide the necessary certainty or fulfil the agreed principles in the Withdrawal Agreement.
  • Third, the right of consent being offered to the Northern Irish Assembly effectively makes an agreement contingent, uncertain, provisional and unilateral decision, instead of the safety net provided for by the backstop.
  • Furthermore, the Northern Irish Assembly has not sat for nearly three years and it is questionable whether it would be able to reconvene and take on the responsibility for an international treaty of this nature.

And with No. 10 insisting there will be no more concessions from the UK, the deadlock yet again increases the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now much more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 24 days to go

By Rob Powell, political correspondent

It’s one of the quirks of the current political maelstrom that – despite being barely three weeks away from exit date – there can still be days where very little changes in Brexit-land.

If it wasn’t a terrible journalistic cliché, I’d say we’ve been sat in the eye of the storm for the last 48 hours.

That’s because Brexit has been wedged in this weekend, stuck between the interests of the government, the EU and MPs.

But something has to give before that crucial meeting of European leaders in 10 days’ time.

As it stands, it looks like more compromise will have to come from Downing Street if any progress is to be made.

Despite a chorus of cabinet ministers urging the EU to give ground, there is still no credible reason to think they will.

For Brussels, the Brexit delay bill buys more can-kicking time.

And the looming UK election could install a new government that’s less keen on leaving.

But Boris Johnson has very little wiggle room, boxed in as he is by political interests at home.

If he offers too many concessions, he’ll lose support for his deal among MPs and (worse than that) his carefully cultivated hard man Brexit credentials will be left in tatters.

Remember, it’s those credentials the PM is relying on to win the general election, so the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Don’t let the lack of movement this weekend fool you, the crunch is coming and coming soon.

PROGRESS REPORT: The chances of the UK leaving the EU on October 31st deal or no deal have stayed the same in the last 24 hours.

Brexit – 25 days to go

By Rob Powell, political correspondent

Political solutions are usually located in the grey areas and the spaces in-between.

So how can a common fix be found when every side is wrapped in their own red lines and coated in black and white principles?

Talks to try to find a new Brexit deal were called off this weekend after the EU said Boris Johnson’s new proposal did not provide the basis for agreement.

The prime minister will be spending the coming days beckoning Brussels to the negotiating table and urging them to compromise.

But the difficulty he’s finding is that the EU sees elements of the new plan not as a bending of their rules, but as a breaking of them.

That’s why, for now anyway, the PM is running into a brick wall in Brussels. Just as his two immediate predecessors did.

So what happens next?

Beyond the broader ideologies, the political winds blowing right now make Brexit by the end of this month look more and more unlikely by the day.

Time is running tight. The crucial EU Council is a week Thursday. Exit date is in just 25 days.

Even if some common ground can be found before then, the Brexit delay act means Brussels chiefs see a new stretch of land to the kick the can down.

Until that disappears, those red lines may remain wrapped around the EU as tight as ever.

PROGRESS REPORT: The chances of the UK leaving the EU on 31 October deal or no-deal have decreased in the last 24 hours as the EU is currently not negotiating with the PM.

Brexit – 26 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

Since his decision to run for Tory leader the prime minister has enjoyed a searing clarity: we would be leaving on 31 October “come what may”, “do or die”, even if it meant he must “die in a ditch”. No extension would be sought.

Documents released at the Court of Session (which is proving a rather thorny nemesis for the PM) put pay to that theory. They are clear that if a deal from the EU is unobtainable then the government will ask for an extension, as per the Benn Act. The PM’s pledge to die in a ditch, to borrow a phrase from Lady Hale, is “null, void and of no effect.”

How can this be? Pay little heed to the idea the PM has a way around the Benn Act. It doesn’t. But it does have a political imperative to its supporters. It must be seen to resist any extension with all its might. If it can, ministers hope, they finally secure the election they crave and go into it pledging that if they win a majority, there will be no more hostile Remainer parliament there to frustrate its will or Brexit.

Well, it’s a theory. It’s a very risky one. But it’s the only card the government now has.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 27 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

Much in Westminster is illusory. Charles Barry’s neo-Gothic masterpiece in which parliament sits is largely a facade, a 19th century building pretending to be something it is not. Often what goes on in the Commons chamber is as misleading. The truth is not what is shown. Today was one of those days.

All seemed calm, better than calm, in fact. Tory MPs were gentle, happy even. A smattering of opposition MPs joined them. They congratulated the prime minister on “breaking the deadlock” with his proposals. But of course, he has only broken the deadlock in Barry’s hallowed halls, not with the EU, and even then probably only for now.

The EU doesn’t like the PM’s proposals not one bit and isn’t going to agree to them. The Irish are deeply displeased. They view Johnson’s ideas as deeply suboptimal by comparison to the actual deal negotiated with Theresa May. They believe the Benn Act will force (whoever is) the prime minister to extend, so they have every incentive to sit and wait, and see what happens.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is neither more nor less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 28 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Boris Johnson’s new Brexit blueprint has received a hostile reaction from Dublin, Brussels and Opposition parties at Westminster, suggesting it stands little chance of success.

The Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told the prime minister in a phone call that his proposals “do not fully meet the agreed objectives” of the Northern Ireland backstop.

And in Brussels, Guy Verhofstadt, who chairs the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, said they were “absolutely not positive” about Mr Johnson’s plan. “It doesn’t provide the necessary safeguards for Ireland,” he said.

Earlier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters: “There is progress. But to be frank, a lot of work still needs to be done to reach, to fulfil, the three objectives of the backstop – no border, all-Ireland economy, and protecting the single market.

“That means protecting the consumer, the citizens, and the businesses inside the single market, the 27 member states.”

At Westminster, although the DUP and Tory Brexiteers welcomed the Prime Minister’s proposals, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said they were worse than those of Theresa May, which were rejected by MPs three times. He predicted Mr Johnson’s plans would be also defeated in a Commons vote.

And significantly, both Mr Corbyn and the leading Tory rebel Dominic Grieve told Sky News they suspected that Mr Johnson was not serious about a deal and that his objective was to secure a no-deal Brexit.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now much more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 29 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Laying down the gauntlet to Brussels, Boris Johnson says he’s making a final offer – a new deal which he claims is “a fair and reasonable compromise” – to break the Brexit deadlock.

And in a take-it-or-leave-it threat to the European Union, the prime minister says it’s a new deal or no deal, but no delay.

Fresh legal texts for a new deal are being presented to Brussels, coinciding with the PM’s speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, in which he will unveil plans for a new Brexit deal.

Downing Street officials are insisting that if Brussels does not engage with the new offer, the government will not negotiate further until after the UK has left the EU.

And the PM will “in no circumstances” negotiate a delay at the EU summit on October 17-18, according to No. 10, signalling a tough and uncompromising stance.

But the chances of a deal do not look good.

Leaked proposals for customs checks 5-10 miles from the Irish border or a time limited backstop have been rejected not just by the Irish government, but also throughout Europe.

In Brussels, an EU Commission spokesperson said the EU was not considering time limiting the backstop, and added: “We are waiting for the UK to come forwards with a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop.”

And in Paris, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain predicted a no-deal outcome, telling the French parliament: “Today, the hypothesis of an exit without agreement is the most plausible one.”

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 30 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

The Prime Minister is reported to be poised to unveil his detailed Brexit plan to EU leaders in the next 24 hours.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Downing Street will set out Boris Johnson’s preferred alternative to the Irish backstop in a series of calls to EU capitals ahead of a formal text being delivered to Brussels after his speech to the Conservative Party’s conference.

The plan is expected to be based on the creation of an all-Ireland “economic zone” which would allow agricultural and food products to move between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic without checks at the border.

The Financial Times reports that Mr Johnson will “know by the weekend” whether he has a chance of a Brexit deal.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITH a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 31 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Has Arlene Foster thrown Boris Johnson a Brexit lifeline?

Speaking at the Tory conference in Manchester, the DUP leader said her party could accept a time-limited Irish border backstop.

Previously the Democratic Unionists have said the backstop must be removed from any Brexit deal.

But her latest comments suggest her party is softening its Brexit stance in a potentially major shift.

The prime minister has also repeatedly said the backstop must be axed from a Brexit deal.

But with his self-imposed deadline of 31 October now only a month away, he is under pressure from some cabinet ministers to compromise and do a deal with Brussels to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking at a conference fringe event, Ms Foster said: “In terms of a time-limited backstop we have said in the past that it’s something we would look at.

“I don’t think it is something Leo Varadkar would look at, but certainly if a time-limited backstop was on offer it’s something we would look at.”

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITH a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 32 days to go

By Rob Powell, political correspondent

How to solve a problem like no-deal? That’s the question that has been occupying the minds of opposition parties in Westminster recently.

For the Scottish National Party at least, a plan has come into focus: Jeremy Corbyn.

The SNP has belatedly come round to the idea of bringing down Boris Johnson’s government and installing the Labour leader as an interim prime minister with the sole intention of delaying Brexit and calling a general election.

This could mean a vote of no confidence within days, according to one of the party’s MPs. But there’s a hitch. For this to work, the SNP need the backing of the Liberal Democrats and those twenty or so ex-Tory rebels. They are all still very queasy at the prospect of installing Comrade Corbyn in Downing Street.

There’s a sense in parts of the opposition that the only way to make absolutely certain a delay to Brexit is secured is to oust Mr Johnson and get someone else to ask for it.

But this is where practical reality collides with political interests.

Mr Corbyn is very reluctant to let anyone else waltz into Number 10 and steal the glory of blocking no-deal. And to be frank, who can blame him? He is the leader of the opposition after all.

So we end up back where we started: how to solve a problem like no deal?

If the legislation to block it doesn’t hold up, MPs may quickly realise they have a very limited number of answers to that question.

Corbyn. Or bust.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now less likely to leave the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 33 days to go

By Rob Powell, political correspondent

“The moment of truth is approaching,” says the Brexit Secretary. With just under five weeks until Brexit day, it’s hard to fault his logic. But what is coming round the corner is still as unclear as ever. Despite warm noises from the EU, there’s still little tangible progress.

The two sides remain poles apart on the vexed issue of the Irish border. And with the chances of reaching an agreement in the next 33 days looking tighter by the hour, MPs fighting against no deal are getting nervous.

Downing Street continues to insist it will leave come what may on 31 October, despite legislation that appears to block no deal. That could spur opposition forces into taking action to guarantee the PM asks for a Brexit delay. In practice, more legislation may be in offing, or perhaps a vote of no confidence and a caretaker government.

The SNP indicated they could row in behind Jeremy Corbyn as interim Prime Minister. But the Lib Dems and ex-Tory rebels remain unconvinced, queasy at the idea of putting the Labour leader into Number 10.

So five weeks from Brexit day, both sides remain hemmed in. Boris Johnson by his inability to trigger an election. The opposition by their unwillingness to cross political red lines for practical purposes.

Whether the moment of truth – when it eventually arrives – sets anyone free remains to be seen.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 34 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

The Benn Act is the most talked about piece of law for decades. It essentially forces the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Article 50 if he has not secured a deal by the conclusion of the European Council Summit on 19 October.

Yet Sir John Major believes Downing St has found a loophole in the legislation. The precise details of it (which are obtruse and technical) need not detain us here but suffice it to say it could well be enough to give the prime minister enough justification not to write the letter.

If so we can expect the entire matter to end up in the Supreme Court once again in late October, right before the deadline. Expect efforts too from backbench MPs to amend the law in the coming weeks.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 35 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

With the House of Commons hitting boiling point, Boris Johnson appeared to refuse to abide by the terms of the legislation piloted through the Commons earlier this month by Labour’s Hilary Benn, which calls for a Brexit extension until 31 January.

Towards the end of stormy exchanges during the Prime Minister’s marathon statement, Pro-Remain Labour MP Ian Murray challenged him: “For the sixth and final time if he doesn’t get a deal through this House, or a no-deal through this House by October 19 will he seek an extension from the European Union until January 31?”

Mr Johnson replied simply: “No.”

Later, after Mr Johnson has scurried out of the chamber, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell protested to Speaker John Bercow: “We are now moving into new territory where a prime minister already found guilty of an unlawful act is now refusing to abide by the law as asked by this House.”

Earlier, in another implied threat to ignore the legal process and a signal that the PM is preparing for a no-deal Brexit, Downing Street sources refused to rule out an attempt to prorogue Parliament for a second time, despite the Supreme Court ruling that the first one was unlawful.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now much more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 36 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Ireland’s Prime Minister said he and Boris Johnson reached “no agreements by any means” on Brexit after a meeting in New York and there is “still a very wide gap” between them.

Leo Varadkar said he “got into some more details” with Mr Johnson during their meeting at the UN General Assembly, but stressed nothing concrete had been agreed.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Varadkar – who also met the PM earlier this month, said: “It was a good meeting. No agreements by any means, but we got into some more details.

“The first time was an opportunity to build relationships, this meeting was a meeting between my team and his, and was a little more detailed.

“We got to speak about some of the details of the backstop and the Withdrawal Agreement and I think it was a good meeting, but there is still a very wide gap between the EU and UK achieving what we need to achieve by October.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “They discussed the Brexit talks and the ideas that the UK has been putting forward, including on the issue of consent.

“The Prime Minister was clear that the UK would be leaving on 31 October and said that he was cautiously optimistic that we would be able to do so through negotiating a deal which is acceptable to both sides.

“The Prime Minister underlined his steadfast commitment to the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and said that we will never place infrastructure, checks or controls at the border.”

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal.

Brexit – 37 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Michel Barnier has described Boris Johnson’s proposals to replace the Irish backstop as “unacceptable”.

“The new government of the UK wants us to get rid of this solution and wants… a regulatory and customs land border on the island of Ireland,” he said in Germany, in his most downbeat assessment yet of Brexit deal by 31 October.

Insisting his mandate was safeguarding peace and stability in Ireland and protecting the integrity of the single market, the Brussels Brexit chief added: “Let me therefore put it clearly that based on current thinking it is difficult to see how we arrive at a legally operable solution that fulfils all the objectives of the backstop.”

Travelling to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Johnson declared he was “cautiously optimistic” that he could persuade the EU to accept his proposals for the Irish border.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now much more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 38 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

In a claim that will no doubt be disputed by Boris Johnson, Jean-Claude Juncker has told Sky News a hard border will return on the island of Ireland if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

Warning of a risk to the Good Friday Agreement, he told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I don’t like it, a hard border. Because of the Good Friday Agreement – and this has to be respected in all its parts. The situation in Ireland has improved; we should not play with this.”

Echoing words he no doubt said when he met Mr Johnson last Monday, Mr Juncker insisted: “The EU is in no way responsible for any kind of consequences of Brexit. That was a British decision. The EU is not leaving the UK. The UK is leaving the EU.”

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 39 days to go

By Greg Heffer, political reporter

Labour could head into a general election campaign without a clear position on which side it would support in a second Brexit referendum.

A policy statement put forward by Jeremy Corbyn to the National Executive Committee (NEC) says Labour would strike a new deal with Brussels within three months and then put it to another public vote.

The party’s position in that referendum would be settled in a special conference after an election.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 40 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

The Brexit mood music from Brussels has undoubtedly improved over the past few weeks.

But it became clear on Friday that, as yet, the EU is still singing the same tune.

A leaked Brussels memo comprehensively trashed the UK’s ‘grand plan’ to break the Brexit deadlock.

“Such concepts fall short of satisfying all the objectives of the backstop”, the document read.

It comes off the back of a flurry of optimism after EU boss Jean-Claude Juncker told Sky News that a deal could be found.

Welcome warm words yes, but niceties will not move the dial.

Someone still needs to cross their red lines in a big way if the UK is to leave with a deal at the end of October.

As yet, there’s little indication the EU is prepared to do this.

So with legislation blocking no deal in place, another delay to Brexit now seems increasingly likely.

But for a Prime Minister who has built his Premiership on leaving the EU ‘do or die’, any extension could be terminal.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 41 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

In a highly significant development on Brexit, Jean-Claude Juncker told Sky News: “I think we can have a deal. I am doing everything to have a deal because I don’t like the idea of a no-deal, because I think this would have catastrophic consequences for at least one year.”

And in a major shift in tone, the European Commission president said in an interview with Sophy Ridge that his meeting with Boris Johnson on Monday had been “rather positive”. He also confirmed he had received documents from the UK outlining draft ideas for a fresh withdrawal agreement

Somewhat bizarrely, 24 hours after saying he did not have an “emotional attachment” to the Irish backstop and this time using language that probably suffered in translation, the European Commission president said he did not have “an erotic relation” to it.

Crucially, Mr Juncker said he was prepared to remove the backstop from a withdrawal agreement, so long as alternative arrangements were put in place, “allowing us and Britain to achieve the main objectives of the backstop. All of them”.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITH a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 42 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Reporting to the European Parliament in Strasbourg about his talks on Monday with Boris Johnson, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs: “I said to Prime Minister Johnson that I have no emotional attachment to the safety net, to the backstop, but I stated that I stand by the objectives that it is designed to achieve.

“That is why I called on the prime minister to come forward with operational proposals, in writing, for practical steps which would allow us to achieve those objectives.

“Until such time as those proposals have been presented I will not be able to tell you, looking you straight in the eye, that any real progress has been achieved.”

But Mr Juncker’s surprisingly conciliatory comment about the backstop, the contingency plan aimed at preventing a hard border with Ireland by keeping the UK closely aligned to Brussels’ rules, was widely seen by MEPs as a signal that Brussels is preparing to make concessions – however minor – to Mr Johnson in Brexit negotiations.

Mr Juncker also said the commission was prepared to work “day in, day out, morning until night” on efforts to reach an agreement.

And later Downing Street revealed that the Prime Minister had spoken to Mr Juncker again.

“The prime minister and President Juncker discussed the positive and constructive conversation they had in Luxembourg on Monday and their shared determination to reach a deal,” said a No 10 spokesperson.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITH a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 43 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

In an extraordinary move, the UK claims it has put forward proposals to end the Brexit deadlock, but will not allow Brussels officials to keep hold of the written details for fear of leaks.

British sources claim papers setting out Boris Johnson’s position have been shown to the EU, but were taken back at the end of meetings.

Despite the UK’s claim, Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said: “We are still waiting for concrete proposals from the UK side.

“It’s now the UK’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement that are necessary in order to move the discussions forward.”

But a breakthrough is not expected before the UN General Assembly meeting in New York next week, when Mr Johnson is expected to hold talks with European Council President Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

And the UK’s proposals may not be published until after the Tory conference, which ends on 2 October, leaving only a fortnight before the make-or-break EU summit on 17 October, when Mr Johnson hopes to do a deal.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 44 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

The ambush of Boris Johnson by the Luxembourg Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, rather overshadowed the crucial talks between the prime minister and the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, in Luxembourg’s Le Bouquet Garni restaurant.

But the commission said after the lunch: “It is the UK’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement. Such proposals have not yet been made.”

Mr Johnson claimed he was optimistic, however. “Yes, we’ve got a good chance of a deal,” he said.

“Yes, I can see the shape of it. Everybody could see roughly what could be done. But it will require movement. And it will require the system in which the EU can control the UK after we leave – the so-called backstop – to go from that treaty.”

Downing Street said the PM’s meeting with Mr Juncker was “constructive” and contact between the two sides would be stepped up.

“The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis,” a spokeswoman said.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 45 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

Another week begins where Boris Johnson must once more be contemplating an uncomfortable fact which every prime minister learns: that so often they are not masters of their own fate.

This week two bodies hold his destiny in their hands, the first, in whose grip he is permanently held, is the EU.

If the mood music from Downing Street is anything to go by, they are increasingly hopeful if not bullish about getting a reworked deal, centred around a Northern Ireland backstop.

Ironically enough, this was once the EU’s preferred option but was talked out of it by Theresa May (she said that no British prime minister could ever entertain such an option as it would lead to the division of the United Kingdom) but is now being treated as a salvation.

If this is the PM’s get-out-of-jail-free card, though it might satisfy the EU’s requirements, it by no means satisfies parliament’s.

Even if the DUP can be brought onside, with Mr Johnson’s parliamentary situation even more dire than Mrs May’s, passage is not guaranteed.

Moreover, even if the bill can be passed, the necessary Withdrawal Agreement Implementation Bill must secure passage too and rebel alliance MPs make it clear to me they will do all they can to frustrate it; including adding an amendment which would include a second referendum.

But that’s a long way off: before then, at some point this week, the Supreme Court will adjudicate as to whether the Scottish Court of Session was correct in judging prorogation unlawful.

If the court sides with the English high court, expect the union to come under even more strain and Scottish nationalists to condemn it.

If it rules against the government and says that suspending parliament was unlawful, saying in effect that Mr Johnson lied to the nation and perhaps to the Queen, the political authority of the prime minister will be all but spent.

The EU may well conclude that expending any more political capital on a prime minister with so little of his own simply isn’t worth their effort.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now no more or less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 46 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

No you’re not dreaming. Sunday’s newspaper headlines are real, the prime minister has compared himself not to his hero Churchill or Margaret Thatcher but to the Incredible Hulk.

When asked by The Mail On Sunday whether he would obey the law parliament has passed to force him to extend our Brexit date if no deal can be reached, the prime minister said: “[the Hulk] might be bound in manacles but when provoked he would explode out of them.

“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets and he always escaped no matter how tightly bound he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out by 31 October and we will get it done, believe me.”

This is perhaps the clearest he has been yet that if necessary, he will disobey the law and not seek the extension he is compelled to do by the recent Act of Parliament.

It is becoming clearer that there are two broad outcomes for the Brexit endgame: either Mr Johnson secures a deal (which sets off all sorts of alternative parliamentary hurdles) or he does not, he refuses to ask for an extension and parliament will have a choice to make.

Either replace him via a motion of no confidence, or fail so to do and Britain almost inevitably leaves without a deal.

Much will depend on whether the opposition, latterly (temporarily?) united might agree upon an alternative administration.

However, if he really forces the issue, such is the unwillingness to a) entertain a no-deal Brexit b) entertain a PM who breaks the law, that it will probably force them to do so.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 47 days to go

By Kate McCann, political correspondent

Boris Johnson is set to hold his first meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission President, on Monday as he said he is “cautiously optimistic” about a Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister faced a tough crowd of voters during a visit to Rotherham where he was told to “get back to parliament”.

There is a sense in Westminster and beyond that the final crunch point is approaching, after years of back and forth.

Over the last couple of days it has been suggested that a deal is closer than was previously thought, although both sides admit there is still a long way to go.

This meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Juncker will be a key milestone in what the Prime Minister hopes will be the road to a deal, to be struck mid-way through October in time to leave on the 31st.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 48 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

As he was forced to deny lying to the Queen about why he suspended parliament, Boris Johnson said he was very hopeful of a Brexit deal at the Brussels summit on 17 October.

“We’re working very hard – I’ve been around the European capitals talking to our friends,” he said.

“I think we can see the rough area of a landing space, of how you can do it. It will be tough, it will be hard, but I think we can get there.”

But Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said Brussels was still waiting to see proposals from the UK on how to resolve the fraught issue of the Northern Ireland backstop: “We are still ready to examine objectively any concrete and legally operational proposals from the UK,” he said.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 49 days to go

By Sam Coates, deputy political editor

Boris Johnson will come under pressure after the release of “Operation Yellowhammer” documents, relating to the government’s preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

He will not be challenged over their details in parliament, which is now suspended for five weeks.

But the prime minister will not be able to escape demands to reassure the publice why a no-deal Brexit might be a risk worth taking.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 50 days to go

By Kate McCann, political correspondent

Boris Johnson asked MPs to “give him a break” over claims he decided to prorogue parliament in order to push ahead with his Brexit plan.

Speaking on a visit to a school, the prime minister said the House of Commons has been suspended so that the government can bring forward a Queen’s Speech and discuss domestic issues.

It came as Mr Johnson sat down for a meeting with DUP leader Arlene Foster amid claims – swiftly denied by Number 10 – that he could be considering a Northern Ireland-only backstop.

Such a move would be controversial, goes against Mrs Foster’s own red lines, and would likely lose the support of the DUP – who prop up the government in parliament.

This would not be an issue if Mr Johnson called and won a general election with a large majority.

The prime minister said Brussels and the UK both want a deal and “there is a way” of securing one, but MPs demanded more information on what Mr Johnson and his team are trying to negotiate.

Sources in Downing Street made clear they do not intend to reveal the full negotiation plan until talks are well under way with the EU, because of fears alternatives could be rubbished too quickly.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 51 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Meeting the Irish Premier Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Boris Johnson insisted he is committed to securing a new Brexit deal and said he believed it was possible to secure an agreement ahead of the UK’s scheduled departure at the end of October. He also said he believed it was still possible to reach a new agreement with Brussels before the next EU summit on 17 and 18 October.

While Mr Johnson said he did not underestimate the “technical problems” involved in resolving the issue of the Irish border, he said the UK was ready to bring forward proposals to address the “full range of issues”.

Mr Varadkar said he was willing to work with the Prime Minister as a “friend and ally” to find a solution but said Ireland was not prepared to accept the replacement of a “legal guarantee with a promise”. He said that the Northern Ireland backstop – intended to ensure there is no return of a hard border with the Republic – remained a “critical component” of the agreement unless a viable alternative could be found.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 52 days to go

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has told Sky News the prime minister will “test to the limit” a law that forces him to ask the EU to delay Brexit to avoid a no-deal departure.

Opposition MPs and Conservative rebels backed the legislation last week as they sought to compel Boris Johnson to ask for a fresh three-month extension to the Article 50 negotiating period, rather than see the UK leave the EU without a deal.

However, as well as Mr Raab’s dismissal of the “lousy” bill, France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian raised the prospect of the EU not even offering another extension.

“We are not going to do this every three months,” he said.

The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt also backed that stance, describing another extension as “unacceptable unless the deadlock in London is broken”.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 53 days to go

By Nick Martin, people and politics correspondent

Amber Rudd’s resignation is bad news for the prime minister but it is unlikely to have a direct impact on Britain’s chances of leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October.

However, the drip-drip of misery upon Boris Johnson could begin to shake his resolve and cause him to think again.

The Brexit delay bill will become law next week – making it illegal for the prime minister to leave without a deal. But government sources are talking tough. They said Britain is leaving ‘come what may’, even if it means heading to the courts.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 54 days to go

By Nick Martin, people and politics correspondent

While Mr Johnson was visiting farmers and fishermen in Aberdeenshire, opposition leaders were gathering on a telephone conference call to block his attempts to call a general election.

The PM needs a two thirds majority to dissolve Parliament and take the nation to the polls and opposition leaders are not keen. For now.

Over in the House of Lords, a bill designed to stop Boris Johnson taking the UK out of the EU on 31 October without a Brexit agreement has cleared the House of Lords. It’s now set to become law on Monday when it is due to get royal assent.

The bill, drafted by a cross-party alliance of MPs and tabled by Labour’s Hilary Benn, would make it illegal for Mr Johnson to take the UK out of the EU without a deal at the end of October.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 55 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Boris Johnson has raised the stakes in his battle to leave the EU on 31 October by declaring he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than return to Brussels to ask for a further Brexit delay. He is determined to hold a general election on 15 October, while Labour and the other Opposition parties are so far pushing for a poll in November.

But the unity of the Opposition parties may not hold, as members of Mr Corbyn’s inner circle are keen for an early election, even though Labour MPs – backed by the shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer – want a November poll, and the Scottish National Party may press for an early election, which would make no deal more likely.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 56 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Boris Johnson’s Commons voting record as Prime Minister now reads: Played 3, Lost 3.

After losing his first vote by 328 votes to 301 on Tuesday evening, on anti-no deal MPs’ bid to seize control of the Commons agenda, 24 hours later he lost two votes on Hilary Benn’s Bill to block no deal by similar margins, 329 to 300 and 327 to 299.

Then the prime minister failed to win the required two thirds majority in a vote attempting to trigger an early general election.

At his first Prime Minister’s Questions, though Mr Johnson had a good gag about Jeremy Corbyn being a “chlorinated chicken” for not voting for a general election, he was repeatedly challenged by the Labour leader on the lack of proposals for a new Brexit deal and no meaningful negotiations with Brussels.

But if the Benn Bill eventually clears the filibustering House of Lords and becomes law, Mr Johnson’s hands could be tied.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 57 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Boris Johnson’s ruthless Commons tactics, threatening to remove the whip from Tory MPs who voted to allow a debate on a Bill to block a no-deal Brexit, backfired spectacularly, as 21 rebels defied him and inflicted a humiliating defeat on the government.

Nearly all ex-ministers, the rebels included two former Chancellors of the Exchequer, Kenneth Clarke and Philip Hammond, and Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames.

The prime minister now faces the near-certainty of another big rebellion and defeat when MPs debate the Bill itself, which delays Brexit by at least another three months.

The rebels have nothing to lose now. And Mr Johnson’s threat of triggering a general election, by whatever parliamentary device he chooses, will also be harder to achieve, now he has 21 fewer Tory MPs.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now less likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 58 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

“I’ve been summoned for a war meeting for the next election,” said one Tory MP as he made a dash to his constituency yesterday afternoon. “Something has got to give”, he added.

Around six hours later, something did give.

A senior government official confirming that the prime minister would push for a snap election in just six weeks’ time if MPs defy him in the commons and block no deal.

The threat doesn’t appear to have put off Tory rebels, who are digging in. And with the Labour leadership eager to go to the polls, an early election is now more likely than ever.

But would this increase the chances of a no-deal Brexit?

That completely depends on the result which, as it stands, is impossible to call.

A Conservative majority would give Boris Johnson a public mandate for his “do or die” Brexit strategy. Combine that with the expected sackings of some twenty ‘remain alliance’ rebels, and the chances of no deal go through the roof.

But what if it swings the other way? A Jeremy Corbyn led government would see Brexit delayed and another referendum called. The chance of leaving the EU at all would drop through the floor.

Or what if the public return a hung Parliament that is still divided on Brexit and unable to agree on a way out? Back to square one with gridlock in the commons.

Boris Johnson has been forced to threaten this snap election because his own red lines have boxed him into a corner. But there’s absolutely no guarantee that going to the polls will provide an answer to the Brexit conundrum.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change in the likelihood of the UK leaving with or without a deal on 31 October because too much depends on the outcome of the possible snap general election.

Brexit – 59 days to go

By Kate McCann, political correspondent

Boris Johnson has threatened to withdraw the whip from any Conservative MP who votes to block a no-deal Brexit this week, effectively sacking them on the spot.

A prime minister with a wafer-thin majority in the House of Commons who is prepared to cut that even further is one who realises the stakes have never been higher and perhaps one who is willing to risk it all on an election if that’s what it takes.

Number 10 believes blocking a no-deal Brexit scuppers any chance of a new agreement with Brussels and it’ll do anything to stop that happening.

So the pressure is on Conservative MPs to give Mr Johnson more time, but some have already suggested they’re willing to lose their jobs to block no deal – so will this threat be enough?

And if it isn’t, could the government – as Michael Gove appeared to suggest today – ignore the new legislation and plough on regardless?

This week will be crucial but with so many unanswerable questions it’s impossible to predict what the outcome will be.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 60 days to go

By Kate McCann, political correspondent

Just hours after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that the chances of a Brexit deal “are stronger than a lot of people think”, the prime minister was dealt a significant blow to his chances of reaching an agreement with the EU by Michel Barnier.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that the backstop “is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-Member State” and admitted he is “not optimistic” about avoiding a no-deal scenario. After a more positive tone from the continent following meetings with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, Mr Barnier’s firm stance is likely to feel like a setback to Number 10.

Former leadership contender Rory Stewart also revealed he would be supporting Labour efforts to legislate against no deal this week – a move that Downing Street has warned could scupper any chances of forcing movement from the EU.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 61 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

In a defiant interview, Boris Johnson told Sky News that if the mandate of the 2016 referendum was frustrated and the UK was stopped from leaving the EU on 31 October, that would damage people’s trust in politics.

And accusing his opponents in the Commons of sabotage, the prime minister said they were guilty of making other EU countries think Brexit could be stopped.

And the ruthless and controversial sacking of one of Chancellor Sajid Javid’s closest aides, media adviser Sonia Khan, by the prime minister’s chief Brexit strategist Dominic Cummings over a suspicion of disloyalty – which she strongly denies – underlines just how determined Downing Street is to deliver Brexit on 31 October at all costs, deal or no deal.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 62 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

Sir Isaac Newton taught us that, in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The government may soon find out this rule sometimes applies to politics as well.

Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament has enraged MPs inside and out of the Conservative Party. It’s prompted former Tory cabinet ministers to accelerate their plans to try to block no deal, rather than giving their leader some leeway to work on the EU. They will now join forces with opposition parties next week in a bid to pass laws to bind the Prime Minister’s hands.

They’re up against it though. Time is so short that some MPs have suggested sitting through the weekend. Any bills will need to be carefully worded as well. Tight enough to stop Boris Johnson wriggling off the hook. Generous enough to garner the maximum amount of cross-party support.

The rebels will also need a helping hand from the Commons Speaker John Bercow. If his scathing comments this week are anything to go by, that should be guaranteed.

There are other options. Legal challenges are currently progressing through the courts. The big red button marked ‘vote of no confidence’ can still be pushed. But it’s the legislative approach that has gathered the most cross party support, and after this week, it’s where most determination lies.

Suspending parliament may have been intended to stop MPs interfering with Brexit. But actions don’t always create the reaction you expect.

PROGRESS REPORT: The UK is less likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October because MPs are stepping up efforts to block it.

Brexit – 63 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Boris Johnson took the gloves off and came out fighting in his battle with opposition MPs and Tory rebels attempting to derail a no-deal Brexit.

While his decision to suspend Parliament for up to five weeks sparked outrage from his political opponents and the Commons Speaker John Bercow, the prime minister has significantly cut short the time available for parliamentary moves to delay, frustrate or undermine his vow to leave the EU on 31 October.

As the former Chancellor Philip Hammond acknowledged, the opponents of no deal will now have to move much more swiftly, launching their disruptive tactics as soon as MPs return to Westminster next week, since with a Queen’s Speech opening a new session on 14 October 14 there will little or no time to block no deal during October.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 64 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Jeremy Corbyn met the leaders of the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and Green Party to plot moves in parliament to block a no-deal Brexit.

A breakthrough? Perhaps. But the strategy now is no longer tabling a motion of no confidence and installing Mr Corbyn as caretaker prime minister – because the Lib-Dems won’t back him – but instead trying to pass legislation to thwart no deal.

Really? One vital element was missing from the Corbyn meeting and also a further meeting a few hours later to agree a declaration opposing the shutting down of parliament: rebel Tory MPs, pro-Remain Conservatives either said no or had pressing engagements elsewhere.

And for that reason, at the moment at least, the combined opposition parties don’t appear to have the numbers to defeat the government. And Mr Johnson and his allies know that.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been NO CHANGE over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 65 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Asked at his end-of summit news conference in Biarritz about a possible Brexit deal, Boris Johnson said: “I am marginally more optimistic.” The chances of a deal “depend exclusively” on the EU compromising on getting rid of the Irish backstop and the current withdrawal agreement, he said.

But now the Prime Minister is sending his chief Brexit adviser to Brussels this week. David Frost, Mr Johnson’s Brexit “sherpa”, will meet senior EU officials to discuss alternatives to the plan agreed with Theresa May.

Talks between UK and EU officials are said to have been stepped up after the PM’s visits to Berlin and Paris last week.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITH a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 66 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

So is the chance of a no-deal Brexit one in a million? Are chances of reaching an agreement improving? Or is it all touch and go? You can be forgiven if you’re somewhat confused by the mixed messages coming from Boris Johnson in recent weeks. But with the prime minister trying to keep several diplomatic plates spinning at once, constructive ambiguity is a valuable tool.

For Brussels, the message is simple: the UK will be leaving in October come what may and if the EU refuses to re-open the withdrawal agreement, on their heads be it (or so the Number 10 logic goes). That’s why you won’t hear the “no-deal is one in a million” line being repeated any more.

But the PM also wants a new deal. And perhaps more importantly, he wants moderate MPs to think he wants a new deal, so they delay any blocking action that could scupper his whole strategy. That’s why this week’s continental dashes have been carefully calibrated to look reasonable and constructive, but not too desperate.

On the whole, the meetings have gone better than expected, allowing the PM to gently hint that his harder line tactics are working and the EU is beginning to budge. He doesn’t want to get carried away, though. If Brexiteers smell a Brussels stitch up, they could turn on their hero in an instant.

But there’s another altogether less canny reason for the plethora of messages coming from the PM. Like the rest of us, he has very little idea where precisely this is going. There are simply too many variables – the EU, MPs and the rebellious Commons Speaker John Bercow chief among them.

So yes, there’s an element of strategy to all this. But don’t assume our political leaders know much more about the immediate future than we do.

PROGRESS REPORT: The UK is more likely to leave the EU with a deal on 31 October because this week’s meetings with EU leaders have gone better than expected.

Brexit – 67 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

“I know you are, but what am I?”

Playground insult yes, but also a fairly concise appraisal of the diplomatic interactions between Boris Johnson and EU boss Donald Tusk on the first day of the G7 summit in France.

An argument over who will be known as “Mr No Deal” in the years to come may seem trivial, but it’s also instructive as to how this attempted Brexit renegotiation is playing out: both sides trying to shift blame onto the other, both sides attempting to look like the reasonable party hamstrung by the intransigence of their opponent.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like both the EU and the UK have painted themselves into corners so tightly that no deal may be the only viable way out.

Mr Johnson insists that the Irish backstop must be junked. It will be very hard for him to sell anything less than that to his jittery backbenchers. But the EU insists the backstop cannot be removed and the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened.

This all gives very little room for manoeuvre. And it’s why the blame game over no deal is raging while the country apparently slides towards its seemingly inevitable fate. Not because either side necessarily wants to go there, but because it’s one of the only destinations left.

PROGRESS REPORT: The UK is more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 68 days to go

By Rob Powell, political correspondent

The art of putting the brakes on a story is one all politicians get good at. And you could almost hear the screech of tyres as Boris Johnson sought to slow down the runaway narrative that’s been gathering pace over the past few days – namely that a new Brexit deal could be signed, sealed and delivered in the next 30 days.

The prime minister said that while the “mood music was very good” from some EU leaders, anyone hoping for an immediate breakthrough should “not hold their breath”. Quite a departure from the fist-pumping PM we saw on Wednesday night in Berlin praising the “blistering” timetable apparently being laid out by Angela Merkel for a new Brexit deal.

Why the change of heart? Perhaps a belated realisation that UK prime ministers have been here before with the polite, affable German chancellor, confusing a change in tone for a change in position. But Mr Johnson also doesn’t want to tie himself to any deadline. He knows Brussels negotiations always go the distance.

What’s more, the PM is wary of making the same mistake as his predecessor and being sucked into a version of events that ultimately sees him accepting any new Brexit deal the EU comes up with. That could cause his eurosceptic backbenchers to scream betrayal. It would also hand the initiative to the EU. No deal is Mr Johnson’s political deterrent and he needs to convince everyone he’s prepared to use it.

PROGRESS REPORT: The UK is more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 69 days to go

By Tom Rayner, political correspondent

The message Boris Johnson took to Paris and Berlin was the one he has restated time and again: for a deal to be reached, the Irish backstop had to be ditched.

He returned to Downing Street having been told by French President Emmanuel Macron that the backstop was “indispensable”.

While the tone of the prime minister’s European meetings was perhaps more constructive than Downing Street had anticipated – with both his French and German counterparts saying they were ready to engage to find a solution – Mr Johnson was left in no doubt that the EU believes the responsibility to come forward with that solution lies with him.

PROGRESS REPORT: In the last 24 hours diplomatic efforts have taken on a new dynamic, but the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October remains unchanged.

Brexit – 70 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

Something remarkable has happened. Across the newspapers and broadcast bulletins of Britain, a sudden outbreak of optimism about Brexit. Could it be that the chances of the UK leaving the EU with a deal in October have gone up?

Err… maybe.

It’s true that the German chancellor could have been a lot less helpful to Boris Johnson. Angela Merkel appeared to suggest a solution to the Irish border could be found and found quickly.

The kicker? She indicated it would have to come in the future relationship. In other words, no changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.

What’s more, there’s still no sense the UK government can come up with anything on the Irish border that will placate Brussels to such an extent that they will do what they have said a million times is impossible – ditch the backstop.

And consider this. At the same time Boris Johnson was grinning and fist pumping in Berlin, the French president was sketching out a decidedly less optimistic picture in Paris. Emmanuel Macron said scrapping the backstop was “impossible” and a renegotiation of the Brexit deal was “not an option”.

That could make for awkward dinner chat when the tousle-haired prime minister drops in at the Elysee this afternoon.

For months now, Boris Johnson has been calling for more optimism over Brexit. He has it this morning and that shouldn’t be dismissed.

In the current political climate, a feeling of ‘can do’ is a valuable commodity. But it probably won’t last.
“Can we do it?” screams the front page of the Daily Mail today. By this evening, there may be a new answer to that. Non non non!

PROGRESS REPORT: For the first time since Boris Johnson became prime minister, the UK is more likely to leave with a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 71 days to go

By Tom Rayner, political correspondent

Despite the withering response from Brussels to his demand that the EU ditch the so-called Irish backstop, Boris Johnson insisted a deal remained possible but said “it’s going to take a bit of patience”.

Stating publicly an argument that Number 10 officials have made privately for some time, Mr. Johnson claimed the EU “still clearly think that there is a possibility that parliament will block Brexit”, and concessions will only come once that perception changes.

But ahead of their meeting in Berlin tomorrow, the German Chancellor gave little indication that she was prepared to shift course.

Angela Merkel said the solution to Mr. Johnson’s concerns around the backstop could be solved in the second stage of negotiations, which will establish the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU.

But she reiterated the point that those negotiations were dependent on the UK agreeing the terms of divorce, and that means agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement, backstop and all.

PROGRESS REPORT: Despite the Prime Minister’s belief that a deal remains possible, the diplomatic barbs of the last 24 hours mean the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on October 31st remains unchanged.

Brexit – 72 days to go

By Tom Rayner, political correspondent

The prime minister started the day by suggesting he was “confident” EU leaders would come around to his demand that they drop the Irish backstop in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

He ended the day by writing a letter to the EU Council President setting out in more detail than he ever has previously the terms on which he believes a swift renegotiation could be possible before 31 October.

In the letter to Donald Tusk he said the Irish backstop should be replaced by a commitment to have alternative customs arrangements that avoid the need for checks at the border in place by the end of a two-year transition period.

He also signalled he was prepared to offer “commitments” to give confidence that the border would remain open should those alternative arrangements not be ready in time, but did not specify what those commitments might be.

Brussels did not immediately respond, but it is understood the plans were discussed during a telephone conversation earlier in the afternoon between the prime minister and the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

During the call the Irish leader insisted the Withdrawal Agreement could not be renegotiated and stood by the importance of the backstop as a “legally operable guarantee” to avoid a hard border.

PROGRESS REPORT: In the last 24 hours the prime minister has set out what he requires to agree a Brexit deal by 31 October, but without a positive response from the EU the likelihood of a no-deal outcome on that date remains unchanged.

Brexit – 73 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

In Westminster newsrooms, August is usually branded “silly season”. Politicians head for the beaches, special advisers switch off their phones and even the most media-hungry MPs become suddenly unavailable. Not this August, and certainly not this weekend.

The Sunday Times fired an exocet missile straight into Downing Street yesterday publishing a government planning document painting a grim picture of life after no deal. Quoting an unnamed individual, the paper claimed the details were “likely, basic and reasonable”. Not according to sources in Downing Street, who said it was a “worst case scenario” document and had been leaked by a former minister for political ends.

So beyond the spin and the finger pointing, has any of this left a mark and made no deal more or less likely? Well, both sides of the Brexit debate are so dug in nowadays, it seems unlikely any minds will be changed by today’s revelations. In fact, both wings appear increasingly emboldened if anything. The Remain-alliance more convinced than ever about the threat of no deal. Brexiteer suspicions boiling over of a “project fear” stitch-up.

But however likely or far-fetched these scenarios are, they will harden the determination of some MPs to stop no deal. And that could throw a spanner in the works of Boris Johnson’s tactical stand-off with the EU, which will get personal this week when he visits France and Germany. As the prime minister wrote in a letter to rebels, “it is plain as a pikestaff” that Brussels will not compromise if they know MPs can block Brexit.

Downing Street is engaged in a three-way staring match. And no one wants to blink first.

PROGRESS REPORT: The UK is less likely to leave the EU with or without a deal on 31 October. There has been no progress on negotiations with the EU and opposition to no deal is hardening.

Brexit – 74 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

If Brexit were a game, it could easily be chess. Successful players need a solid strategy and ample foresight. Your next move may matter, but the four after that are important as well. Just look at Jeremy Corbyn and other MPs trying to block no deal. The battle of the week has been over who will take over as caretaker Prime Minister. Could it be the Labour leader? Or veteran MP Kenneth Clarke? Or perhaps Harriet Harman?

Again today, Mr Corbyn has insisted that he has the right to form a government before anyone else. But remember, even to get to this point requires the small issue of the current administration falling and a majority of MPs gathering behind another leader. Currently, it’s not even guaranteed that Boris Johnson would lose a no confidence vote. And even if he did, the splits ravaging parliament make it almost certain that no other MP would be able to command the confidence of the house.

But Mr Corbyn knows that in the mad world of modern Westminster, political tectonic plates can align at just the moment to allow him to leap across the divide. That’s why he is prepping the ground now for the next month’s battle. The problem for him is, his political enemies are doing exactly the same thing.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 75 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

There are few days in politics these days where things don’t change much. Today was actually one of them. Politics was dominated, for once not by Brexit, but instead by the tragic death of police officer Andrew Harper.

There was more futile speculation about a government of national unity. It confirmed what has become apparent all week that it has little chance of succeeding.

PROGRESS REPORT: A no-deal Brexit became no more nor no less likely than before.

Brexit – 76 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

There has been a lot of talk in recent days about a so-called “government of national unity”- today demonstrated that the elements which might comprise it are anything but united.

Jo Swinson rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s overtures for a caretaker administration. There was a similarly tepid result from other parties.

I’ve sat down all day indulging my first love – parliamentary number crunching – and as far as I can see a Corbyn administration could be short by over 30 votes (worst case scenario) or might just scrape in by one (best case). The margin for error is almost non-existent and I suspect, as a result, is unlikely to succeed.

Ironically, that is not so much as a result of SNP, or Lib Dems or Plaid or the rest, but instead MPs, who until relatively recently, Corbyn would have counted as his parliamentary colleagues.

There are around a dozen former Labour MPs who, for one reason or another, have been expelled or left the party in protest at Corbyn’s leadership. Chris Leslie, one of the Change UK MPs told me tonight that his group of five might not even vote against the government in a confidence motion and instead focus on ways to compel it through law to abandon no deal.

If they hold true to their word it will be almost impossible to bring the government down, not least because it will be even harder to convince wavering Tory MPs to destroy their careers by taking the nuclear option of defeating their own government if they don’t think it has any chance of succeeding.

Therefore Boris Johnson might sleep sounder in his bed in Downing St tonight.

PROGRESS REPORT: Chances of Britain leaving without a deal have increased.

Brexit – 77 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

Autumn was in the air in Westminster in more ways than one. The weather was unseasonably dreary but we got the first glimpses of the likely political contours of the new political season awaiting us in September.

A week ago Jeremy Corbyn wrote to the Cabinet Secretary, Mark Sedwill to ask whether it would fall within election rules for the government to carry out a no-deal Brexit if it should fall in the middle of an election campaign.

Sedwill had a typically mandarinesque non-committal reply. He also said it was up to parliament and the EU to set our departure date, not him.

To that end Mr Corbyn reported the findings of the letter to his fellow opposition party leaders. He said he was not satisfied with the letter and that therefore he’d be placing a motion of no confidence in the government at the earliest opportunity and invited them to support him to form an alternative govt whose sole purpose would be to extend Article 50 and then hold an election.

This was summarily dismissed by smaller party leaders. They would prefer an alternative figure, one who is less controversial in parliament. Mr Corbyn today put down a marker to say that simply isn’t going to happen- if they want to stop a no-deal, it’s him or bust.

PROGRESS REPORT: Given how unpalatable Jeremy Corbyn is to pro-remain Tory MPs, the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit has gone up.

Brexit – 78 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

Barely a day goes by at the moment without hearing something from the Trump administration on Brexit. Today the President’s National Security Adviser met with Chancellor Sajid Javid. He reiterated the administration’s enthusiasm and commitment for new trade accords with the United Kingdom.

Aware of how lengthy negotiations over trade agreements can be, Mr Bolton has suggested a series of smaller, sectoral agreements to get things up and running, potentially as soon as November.

This will be welcome mood music from the Americans for Downing Street. Nonetheless, they won’t be popping the champagne (or should it be Californian Sparkling Wine?) just yet. For a start it’s not clear whether smaller trade deals would be passable with the World Trade Organisation. Secondly the Secretary has made it clear the first tranche wouldn’t include services (by far the most glittering prize for the UK economy) and thirdly, this isn’t necessarily in the president’s gift.

Though Republicans on Capitol Hill are very keen on a new UK/US deal, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has made it clear the Democratic House will veto any trade agreement if Boris Johnson pursues a no-deal Brexit (she is supported by the highly influential Irish American caucus in Congress). They would doubtless attempt to thwart smaller agreements too.

Perhaps then, this is why Boris Johnson, instead of extolling the virtues of a new Anglo-American partnership, chose to reiterate his commitment to a European deal, saying it was “the most important” thing. Yet, there’s no sign of any break in the impasse and unlikely to be until the EU sees what happens in parliament in September.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 79 days to go

By Kate McCann, political correspondent

America is “ready to negotiate” a sector by sector trade deal with the UK in order to get an agreement as soon as Britain has left the European Union, US national security adviser John Bolton has said.

Speaking after a meeting with Boris Johnson, Mr Bolton said the UK will be “first in line” for a trade deal and said the prime minister and Donald Trump have got their relationship off to a “roaring start”, speaking five or six times by phone already.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 80 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

Sunday was a strangely Brexit-free day. The prime minister once again shifting the focus onto domestic affairs, pushing plans on policing and prisons. But despite the lack of ‘the B word’ on the front pages and news bulletins, the most recent policy blitz does give us an indication on where Boris Johnson and his team think his premiership may drift.

Rumours of an early general election have been echoing around Westminster since Mr Johnson announced he was standing for the top job. His energetic first few weeks have done nothing to silence them. What have an increase in NHS spending, more police, tougher sentencing, more prison spaces and a hard line Brexit policy all got in common? They are all red meat for voters who this prime minister needs to get on side if he wants to romp home with a healthy majority in any early election.

What could trigger that snap poll? You got it: Brexit. There’s still a high chance that MPs will block any attempt to leave the EU without a deal. If that happens an election could be the only way out. It may not be explicit, but the cloud of Brexit hangs over most of politics nowadays.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 81 days to go

By Rob Powell, political reporter

Long rumoured and now out in the open, the existence of the dramatically named “Operation Kingfisher” has been confirmed by Michael Gove. The minister responsible for no-deal planning said the scheme would give public cash to businesses that may get into financial trouble because of Brexit.

For Brexit enthusiasts, this is a necessary preparation for that October “do or die” deadline. Critics see it as more evidence of the damage Brexit could do to the country and dismiss it as an expensive part of the government’s “big bluff” strategy to convince the EU it is serious about no deal.

It is convenient that this apparently off-the-cuff revelation has come at a time when the government is consciously talking up the chance of no deal. But it’s wrong to dismiss “Operation Kingfisher” as just posturing.

That’s because it was actually set up behind closed doors by the previous Chancellor Philip Hammond, someone who was and still is fervently against no deal. What’s more, speaking to government sources, it is also clear that this is a genuine exercise to identify possible high-risk industries that could suffer from the likely economic shock that a no-deal Brexit would bring. Construction and manufacturing are spoken about as particularly vulnerable areas.

So yes, this could well be part of the government’s arsenal of persuasion. But it’s also an acknowledgement that no deal may happen and what’s more, if it does, it will do damage.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October. But there have been more indications that the government is willing to take the country out on that date come what may.

Brexit – 82 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, de facto deputy to the prime minister, said that the government will spend “whatever it takes” to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

The government has already spent some £2bn and earmarked over £4bn (or £61 for every man, woman and child) for no-deal preparations. The latest commitment is part of a strategy to emphasise the government’s commitment to leaving the EU on 31 October, come what may.

Yet on precisely the same day, the government inadvertently adverted to the difficulty of just throwing money at this issue.

Emails from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, seen by Sky News, confirm civil service disquiet about the ability of the government to protect Britain’s territorial waters in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The emails say the government is “not on a strong footing” to refute the claims because the UK only has 12 vessels to patrol a surface area “three times the size of the UK”. It will, therefore, be difficult to prevent EU fishermen from continuing to fish in UK territory.

This encapsulates one of the fundamental problems with this idea of “preparing” for a no-deal Brexit. There are certain things which can indeed be prepared for – but many which cannot, especially in the tight time limit we now face.

No matter how much money the government throws at certain issues, there will be considerable disruption.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 83 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Odds are dramatically shortening on a general election in early November, potentially on 1 November, the day after Boris Johnson insists the UK will leave the EU. That has prompted Jeremy Corbyn to write to Whitehall’s top civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, demanding a block on Brexit during an election campaign and accusing Mr Johnson of an abuse of power to force no deal.

Pro-Remain MPs are also claiming that if the prime minister is defeated in a vote of confidence in parliament by opponents of no deal, but refused to quit and called an election, that could provoke a constitutional crisis. Respected academic and pollster Sir John Curtice claims it is now too late to leave on 31 October with a deal.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 84 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Speaking to Sky News, Boris Johnson’s chief strategist Dominic Cummings declared: “The most simple thing is the Prime Minister believes that politicians don’t get to choose which votes they respect. That’s the critical issue.” In other words, MPs should respect the result of the 2016 referendum.

It was a defiant warning to MPs fighting to block a no-deal Brexit, from the man who had angered pro-Remain MPs by claiming they were too late to prevent no deal and that Mr Johnson would refuse to resign even after losing a no-confidence vote so he could force through no deal on 31 October.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 85 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal planning, said Boris Johnson wants to negotiate a new deal with the EU “in the spirit of friendliness”, but added: “Whatever happens, while we remain ready and willing to negotiate, the EU must appreciate that we’re leaving on October 31, deal or no deal.”

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the Brexit process would not end on 31 October, even if there is no deal. And he said: “As time goes on, yes, a no deal becomes more likely. That’s why we have been preparing for it even from before the referendum took place.”

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 86 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, formerly opposed to no deal but now a Boris Johnson loyalist, claimed rebel MPs cannot block a no-deal Brexit.

“There were votes in parliament just before we rose for summer that I thought would stop a no-deal Brexit and actually were defeated,” he said.

And, asked whether it was now too late for parliament to stop no deal, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said the prime minister’s view remained unchanged. “That is the UK will be leaving the EU on October 31, whatever the circumstances,” he said. “There are no ifs or buts.”

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU WITHOUT a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 87 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

The government confirmed that it planned to invest in technical upgrades and maintenance repairs for 20 hospitals for some £1.8bn. This was met with derision by Labour, with shadow health secretary John Ashworth accusing Boris Johnson of “playing with people’s lives” and the future of the NHS by “turbocharging towards a no deal”.

There is virtually no doubt that if we do leave with no agreement there will be a substantial impact on the public finances which will impinge on any government’s ability to be generous with the NHS or any other public service.

Meanwhile, the main chatter around the Westminster village surrounded the comments of the PM’s right-hand man Dominic Cummings to the Sunday Telegraph. He has told the newspaper that remain-minded MPs have left it too late to stop a no deal Brexit; that even if MPs vote against the government when they return after their summer break the government will schedule the election after 31 October.

Such a long election campaign would be nearly unprecedented and plunge us into murky constitutional waters but if the view that an election is impossible there may be an unintended consequence for Downing St: that the other option to avert no deal, a government of national unity, formed only to secure an Article 50 extension, will become more likely.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours the UK is no more likely to leave with a no deal on October 31st but the chances of an election have reached even higher.

Brexit – 88 days to go

By Lewis Goodall, political correspondent

The £350m a week for the NHS pledge was perhaps the most infamous election pledge in British political history and it’s one intimately connected with the new occupant in Number 10. Boris Johnson is determined to implement it. So he has pledged £1.8bn in extra funding to the NHS. Some of this money had already been pledged by Theresa May but brought forward.

It will be made available immediately – and is part of a political operation in No 10, which is spending the summer putting itself in the best position it can for a possible election battle ahead as it tries to drive through no deal if necessary, an election surely more likely after the Brecon by-election.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick also announced funds for councils to hire Brexit leads, insisting it was right to “intensify preparations” so council can be prepared to leave by 31 October “whatever the circumstances”.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours the UK is roughly as likely as it was before to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 89 days to go

By Kate McCann, political correspondent

The Liberal Democrats took the seat of Brecon and Radnorshire from the incumbent Conservatives in a by-election victory which some say indicates the party’s return to form is gathering pace. A worrying sign for Prime Minister Boris Johnson perhaps, given his already slim majority, now cut to just one.

That may not matter now while MPs are away for the summer, but it will make getting any legislation through parliament almost impossible, even with the couple of extra votes the Conservatives will bank from MPs who are currently sitting as independents.

A chink of light for Mr Johnson came in the form of the Brexit Party’s result, which was not as good as some had expected, and the Labour Party’s poor result.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours the UK is now more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 90 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Bank of England governor Mark Carney says Britain has a one-in-three chance of plunging into recession as uncertainty over Brexit drags down the economy. And a “sensitive” Whitehall document leaked to Sky News warns of consumer panic, law and order challenges in Northern Ireland, security gaps and Britons abroad returning to the UK.

Meanwhile, a Brexit countdown clock has been delivered to 10 Downing Street, as time ticks down to 31 October, and will be displayed in Boris Johnson’s office. A similar clock is already in Tory HQ below a message declaring: “We will have delivered Brexit and left the EU by…”

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours the UK is now more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 91 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Sajid Javid, the new chancellor, has announced a spending blitz of £2.1bn to prepare for no deal, funding more Border Force officers, avoiding passport application delays, improving transport around ports, safeguarding medical supplies and launching a public information campaign.

He says: “It’s vital we intensify our planning to ensure we are ready” and “if we can’t get a good deal, we’ll have to leave without one”. Labour says it’s “an appalling waste of taxpayers’ cash”.

PROGRESS REPORT: After the past 24 hours, the UK is now more likely to leave the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Brexit – 92 days to go

By Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

According to 10 Downing Street at lunchtime, Boris Johnson told the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in their phone call that the UK would be leaving the EU on 31 October “no matter what” and his “clear preference is to leave the EU with a deal, but it must be one that abolishes the backstop”.

Several hours later, No 10 said Mr Johnson told the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford in Cardiff that the UK would be leaving on October 31 “come what may”. But at a news conference Mr Drakeford said the PM told him there was a “vanishingly small” chance of leaving the EU without a deal.

PROGRESS REPORT: There has been no change over the past 24 hours on the likelihood of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal on 31 October.

What needs to happen to leave the EU?

✔️ Vote to leave

✔️ Invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty

✔️ Complete phase one of negotiations between UK and EU

❌ Either – leave with a deal by

  • Ratifying a withdrawal agreement in the UK parliament, EU parliament and by approval of 20 of the remaining 27 EU leaders
  • Then starting phase two negotiations on the future relationship

❌Or – leave without a deal by default, then start negotiations on the UK’s status as a third country with the EU