There’s a strange atmosphere in Westminster this week. The usual hustle and bustle of London is on hold – overwhelmed by occasional musical outbursts from Extinction Rebellion infused with police sirens, car horns and the occasional horse’s bray.
While the worlds around it clash, the heart of British politics sits alongside the Thames, serenely waiting.
But not for long. In a historic anomaly, Prime Minster Boris Johnson will convene parliamentarians for a special Westminster sitting, on Saturday 19th October 2019.
Showdown Saturday will follow what could be the last ever European Council summit where the United Kingdom is present. From Brussels, the Johnson administration will either return victorious, a deal in hand, or return to face the Commons with an offer in tatters and a disintegrating deadline.
The European question has been a constant of UK political discourse for decades. No party knows this more than the Conservative Party. Heath, Thatcher, Major, Howard, Cameron and May have all fallen on its sword and now Johnson is wrestling with the conundrum.
Theresa May faltered on the Irish Border and now Johnson looks set for the same fate. Johnson’s proposals seem to tentatively have the numbers in Parliament but look set to be rejected by our European neighbours.
On Wednesday, MEPs elected from each nation state discussed Johnsons alternative to the Irish backstop. Michel Barnier, chief negotiator of the EU said: “The British proposals do not give us the same security as we have with the backstop… What happens if we can’t find a solution during the transition period?… Then there is a significant risk to EU single market.”
He went on to say that: “The proposals of the British Government, as things stand, are not something we can accept. It falls short of being a suitable ‘operational, practical, legal solution.’
Barnier, as of yet, has not ruled out the possibility of a deal, though many leading figures have. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that it was ‘unlikely’ that a deal could be reached by the European Council summit.
Yet hope remains. Johnson met Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday for further talks. Varadkar seemed hopeful that a deal could be reached but still had his reservations.
Westminster is sitting ready for when the Prime Minister enters the chamber, statement in hand. He stands poised to lay down the state of affairs and quite possibly the gauntlet.
His vocabulary will be examined. His actions will be studied. His every move analysed – at home and abroad.
The options are as vague as ever and speculation mounts.
Extension? Election? Referendum? No Deal? Revocation?
All options are firmly on the table and the Saturday showdown will be Judgement Day for all, where the future of democracy hangs in the balance and the future of the UK will be decided.
The serenity will be replaced by jeering, while the theatrical clashes remain.
The sound will be deafening.