Brexit Bulletin: Boris Attacks

(Bloomberg) -- Today in Brexit: May’s nemesis sets out his rival Brexit plan in detail.

Boris Johnson set the scene for the Conservative Party conference with what looks a bit like a leadership bid: a 4,600-word essay called “My plan for a better Brexit.”

Johnson, who has been increasingly critical of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit policy since he quit as foreign secretary in July, sets out an alternative way of leaving the European Union. His so-called “Super Canada” free-trade deal would mean looser trading ties to the bloc than those that May is aiming for, and postponing the intractable issue of the Irish border until after Brexit day.

He addresses the criticism that he’s light on detail and concrete alternatives by setting out his plan with greater precision than ever before. He goes into technical but important matters such as data rules. But he also makes proposals that the EU has made clear it will reject — like ripping up the interim deal that was made in December.

Johnson doesn’t take a direct swipe at May, but he gets close. He calls her negotiating stance a “moral and intellectual humiliation for this country.” And he describes her government as showing a “conspicuous infirmity of purpose.”

Brexiteers loved the article, unsurprisingly. The Telegraph, where it appeared, endorsed it. But it’s still not clear that the hardliners have the numbers to topple May. Pro-EU Tories have said they would vote against any deal along the lines of a Canada-style free-trade pact.

As we head into the conference this weekend, where Johnson will dominate proceedings before May gives what could be a make-or-break speech, the EU side is on hold. No one in Brussels expects any progress in talks before the conference is out of the way. But diplomats have said they do expect some concessions from May afterwards in order to reach an agreement. The risk for the talks — with just six months to go until exit day — is that she emerges too weak to get the deal over the line.

Today’s Must-Reads

Brexit in Brief

Will She Stay? | David Lidington, Theresa May’s de facto deputy, was asked whether May should lead the party into the next election. His answer leaves room for interpretation. “She said to the party that she will remain leader for as long as they want her to, and I think at the moment people are absolutely backing her,” he told the Spectator. “She will decide, in due course, what she wants to do. But now, she is focusing on the task in hand.” A hint that she knows she will have to go in good time, or perhaps reassurance to her critics that she won’t try to cling on much beyond Brexit day?

We Won’t Abandon You | That’s the message from Paris’s man in Dublin. “Some people in Ireland seem worried about being sacrificed on the altar of compromise,” says France’s ambassador to Ireland, Stephane Crouzat. “It’s absolutely not something we have in mind.”

Unprepared | More than 60 percent of companies aren’t preparing for Brexit, according to a survey by the British Chamber of Commerce. A fifth of firms will cut investment if there’s no deal, and the same proportion will move part or all of their business to the EU, the survey showed.

What Would the BOE Do? | It’s not a given that the Bank of England would cut rates in the case of a no-deal Brexit, according to Chief Economist Andy Haldane. It will depend on what happens to the pound, as well as to demand and supply in the economy.

“No Chaos” | Treasury minister John Glen played down the risks facing London’s financial district after Brexit. “There will be no chaos in the City of London no matter how the final deal on Brexit works,” Glen told Bloomberg TV.

Coming Up | The Conservative Party conference starts on Sunday. May gives the crucial, closing speech on Wednesday.

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