Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Not sure that there is any way forward. This will require a level of leadership that is beyond all but the very very few. I wonder whether any of those few are sitting in the UK Parliament.
Court propels Brexit deeper into uncharted waters
Hans van Leeuwen - Europe correspondent
AFR - Sep 24, 2019 — 11.32pm
Brighton, England | You know a country has arrived in a strange place when people are glued to the televised proceedings of parliament, or to the sight of a Supreme Court chief judge reading out a biscuit-dry ruling on constitutional law.
Britain is in that place. On Tuesday morning (late Tuesday evening AEST), the country's political class huddled around TV sets as Baroness Brenda Hale, looking every inch the Hogwarts schoolmistress, delivered her icy admonition of naughty head boy Boris Johnson.
Journalists, cooped together at Labour's annual conference in Brighton, gasped, whistled, laughed and whooped. On the conference floor, triumphant cheers rippled across the huge auditorium as Twitter feeds lit up.
On Twitter itself, Brexiteers gnashed and fulminated at the sight of judges and the "Remainer elite" hijacking the democratic will of the people. The Remainers themselves piled in to defend the rule of law and excoriate the Prime Minister's own disregard for democracy.
As with every twist and turn of the Brexit debate, each side immediately retreated into its bunker and took potshots at the opposition. The once civilised and ironic English have discovered an unexpected and powerful penchant for bitter polarisation.
Johnson began his premiership two months ago with high hopes of overcoming these divides, intending to be a galvaniser and a unifier.
But so far all he has done is catalyse a new and even more politically incendiary phase of Brexit: fanning the flames, burning the bridges and looking ready, in the famous words of the US general in Vietnam, to destroy the village in order to save it.
Where does he take this toxic, bubbling cauldron now? Parliament will sit again, and will find new ways to frustrate him. He will be forcefully reminded that he is under a legal obligation - passed by MPs against his wishes - to either get a deal with the EU by October 19 or ask the European Union to agree a three-month extension.
He has not once wavered from his line that Britain will leave on October 31 - the promise that won him the premiership, and on which his political fortunes now hang.
So he's now desperate for a Brexit deal with the EU, but it has to be one that can pass parliament. That means winning over doubters from the opposition benches without alienating too many of the strident Brexiteers on his own side, or his Northern Irish unionist allies.
That's a hard circle to square, and so far he hasn't managed to convince the EU side there's a watertight deal that meets their desire to protect Ireland's interests and the integrity of the single market.
He has so little time, and is evidently struggling with the stiff headwinds of reality and complexity. An 11th-hour deal can't be ruled out, but it would be yet another surprise in Brexit's endless labyrinth of twists and turns.
What does he do if he can't get to a deal? There have been hints that he might disregard the MPs' new law, or that he has found a loophole, so that he can still push the country into a Halloween no-deal Brexit.
The thinking is that the reputational cost of breaking the law is balanced out by the electoral benefit of delivering his promise.
But will he risk breaking the law of the land? He may end up having to resign if he does, becoming one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in British history. Or he may resign anyway, rather than obey the law.
Since that law passed, it has become far harder to see the previously obvious path to a no-deal Brexit, unless Johnson blows up all the other paths. But it's also hard to see how Johnson acquiesces to a delay, given his cast-iron promise. And it's also so hard to see how he lands a deal.
In short, the Brexit fog has now blanketed all navigable routes - you might as well close your eyes and hope the for best.