Brexit Bulletin: High Noon for Johnson

Brexit is 14 days away.

(Bloomberg) --

Today in Brexit: Boris Johnson needs to seal a deal in Brussels and win support at home, fast.

What’s happening? It’s the morning of the big Brussels summit, and there is no draft Brexit deal on the table for European Union leaders to consider. Yet. But negotiators are close

Driving them on is a growing determination to finally put to an end a divorce saga that has dragged on for more than three years. Both sides now just want to get this done. But the first news of the day was that Johnson's Northern Irish allies are not yet on side. The U.K. side said there were still hurdles to overcome.

Yet the focus is still on the finer details of a solution to the Irish border issue, of customs unions and of consent mechanisms. We are just two weeks away from Oct. 31 — the day the U.K. is supposed to leave the EU — and two days away from Oct. 19, the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson is legally required to ask for an extension if he hasn’t got a deal approved by Parliament.

To get that deal, negotiators in Brussels have to sign off on a legal text; equally crucial, Johnson needs to square any agreement with his Northern Irish allies at home. At the time of writing, early on Thursday, neither is quite nailed down. In Brussels talks were said to be virtually complete. Tony Connelly of Ireland’s RTE News dropped a 2 a.m. Twitter thread with his read on exactly how the new “backstop” replacement will work.

Today will be a busy day, and the choreography is not set: Boris Johnson is expected in Brussels, aiming to seal the text. He might hope a deal in Brussels will increase the pressure on Arlene Foster and the DUP. For now, they aren’t budging.

Today’s Must-Reads

Brexit in Brief

Changing Views? | A couple of key polls released on Thursday add to our understanding of U.K. perceptions of Brexit. A 26,000-person survey for Channel 5 by ComRes found 30% of people preferred to leave the EU with a deal, 20% with no deal, and 42% preferred to remain. Separately, research by Ipsos MORI showed that most Britons still expect to leave the EU without a deal. And polling guru Sir John Curtice addresses in a piece for the BBC the question of whether U.K. voters have changed their minds.

Funding Squeeze | Brexit uncertainty has harmed EU funding for scientific research in the U.K., according to analysis carried out by the Royal Society. The organization says the U.K.’s share of the EU’s 80 billion euro research funding program, Horizon 2020, is down by 28% since 2015. 

Interconnected | A company planning a U.K.-France power link that could supply 4 million homes said access to the single energy market is vital for such new mega projects to have a future. “If Brexit goes well and we leave with a deal, or if we stay in Europe, I think everything will be fine. If not, I don’t know what will happen,” said Alexander Temerko, founder of Aquind Ltd. 

Strains | A no-deal Brexit would threaten the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Institute for Government said in a report. Restoring the Northern Irish Assembly would be made harder, while independence movements in Scotland and Wales would receive a boost, the think tank said.

Food Supplies | The British vegetable growing season is ending with Brexit on the horizon, Greg Ritchie reports. If the U.K. leaves without a deal, what will happen to food supplies?

Unhappy | Britain’s Brexit negotiations over the past three years have been an “unmitigated disaster,” Lord Nash, a former schools minister, writes in the Telegraph. Writing for Brexit Central, former MEP Syed Kamall highlights eight mistakes he believes shaped the direction of Brexit.

Unreal Estate | German banks’ share of the U.K. commercial real-estate lending market shrank in the first half of the year. “For German lenders it is really the Brexit problem,” said Nicole Lux, author of a survey conducted by the Cass Business School. “Other international lenders don’t seem to have the same view, but the German bank head offices want to hold off.”

Room Where It Happens | If Boris Johnson does make it to the EU Council chamber later today he will be on his own, former Downing Street press secretary Paul Harrison writes in The Times. The PM’s aides have to sit and wait in a ninth-floor room before finding out during breaks how their boss is getting on.

Want to keep up with Brexit?

You can follow us @Brexit on Twitter, and listen to Bloomberg Westminster every weekday.

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