Boris Johnson is not happy about the Benn Act because he wants to use "No Deal" as a bargaining chip. This strikes me as a bluff. If it is a bluff, he's told the EU it's a bluff as well.

However, he would still like to negotiate with "No Deal" on the table. Isn't this impossible if the EU knows "No Deal" is a bluff? Or do I not understand the situation?

  • I understand "a bluff" like "a plan B that you do not intend on using". That the "No deal" plan could be used to put pressure on the EU does not mean that Boris Johnson is not willing to use it if if he cannot get anything better.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 22:38
  • I disagree that this question is "asking for the internal motivations of people, how specific individuals would behave in hypothetical situations or predictions for future events". I'm not asking if Mr Johnson is bluffing but whether he has acted consistently with letting the EU know he is bluffing. I'm not asking about a hypothetical situation, but reality. I'm not asking about future events, but past/present events.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 23:12

2 Answers 2


It's hard to say right now since the recent "intensive"/"tunnel" negotiations being held this weekend have been conducted without the press learning much about their content. Just to give you a non-update, as of this morning:

Neither the UK or EU are offering any detail on the apparent common ground that has been found on a solution to the Irish border.

Publically at least, Johnson has maintained that he will somehow not delay beyond Oct 31, despite the Benn Act. This apparent contradiction has prompted much speculation as to what Johnson intended to do exactly to avoid asking for that (conditional) extension mandated by the Benn Act. If he does get a deal through Parliament (I think by Oct 19), he won't have to ask for an extension, even under the Benn Act.

Likewise there has been much speculation whether the EU actually believed Johnson's no-deal threat, even before the Benn Act was passed. Even some commentators on the conservative side of the political spectrum had doubts the EU really believed that Johnson intended to follow through with his no-deal threat.

On the other hand, there are those who think, or at least say, even yesterday, that Johnson's real bluff is that he is pretending to be negotiating with the EU, and that his real plan is a no-deal Brexit. So yeah, lots of diverging opinions on this.

What is more certain is that a hard-Brexit-oriented tabloid, The Express, headlined yesterday

Boris offering Northern Ireland as ‘sacrificial lamb’ as he looks set to backtrack on deal

So at least some corners of the British right believe[d] Johnson was/is their man for no deal. But they have some reservations too. And the EU negotiators are much less casual with their commentary, so it's harder to know what they think.


He said he'd leave on 31st October with or without a deal, but that he'd prefer with a deal. Nothing has changed that. Is it a bluff? The only way to know is if we don't leave on 31st October with no deal - but even then we'd have to look closely at why we didn't as Parliament are doing their best to prevent Johnson doing that. As it stands Parliament have required him to ask for an extension, and I don't know whether he has a way of not doing so.

The fact that the EU have at long last actually agreed to open negotiations shows that they take it seriously, though, having said 'Non !' since Theresa May resigned.

  • 8
    I am not sure it is fair to characterise the EU's stance as having changed. They have always said they will listen to concrete proposals, it is just none have ever been presented.
    – Jontia
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 13:03
  • That's not what the UK press reported, but I believe you. I think my point still stands that it's an indication that the EU take a no deal exit seriously. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 13:07
  • 2
    Also, even if the UK asks an extension, the EU may disagree. According to the French Minister for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin: “At this point, if talks do not proceed the way we hope they will, if there is no desire, particularly from the British side, for compromise, then a no-deal is possible”.
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 13:56
  • @JJJ - Definitely agreed. Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 14:03
  • @simon if the UK press report it, it's probably wrong. If you want accurate coverage Irish Times or SdZ are good places to start.
    – pjc50
    Commented Oct 12, 2019 at 19:37

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