Boris Johnson is likely to be Britain’s next prime minister – and he has said that he wants Britain to leave the EU on 31 October, come what may. That is the current deadline on which the UK’s membership is scheduled to expire. And if Johnson has not requested an extension, and been granted it, by then, then the law dictates this will happen.
While he wants to negotiate a new withdrawal agreement with the EU, he is relaxed about leaving without one. And if it cannot be done by October, so be it. Given that the EU has repeatedly ruled out re-opening the negotiation, Johnson appears to be heading towards No Deal.
But whether this is plausible or not comes down to parliamentary arithmetic.
There’s another wrinkle, though.
The rebels need to pass a vote of no confidence by the very start of September in order to guarantee an election before the UK leaves on October 31. In fact, they will need to hold the vote by, at least, the very first day back that Parliament meets after the summer recess.
If they do not manage that, there is a chance that the UK will leave the European Union with No Deal during the middle of a general election campaign – and no sitting parliament.
Political gamblers have no clear view on what will happen. Their views are consistent with parliament acting against Johnson. According to the Betfair betting market, there is only a 31 per cent chance that Britain will actually leave on October 31. There is an 80 per cent chance of a new vote of no confidence. They think a general election is slightly more likely to happen before Brexit than after it.
Perhaps Johnson will work through these combinations and permutations, and decide to call an election immediately in order to seek a secure majority. But maybe he won’t; if there is a general election, the betting odds imply a 60 per cent chance of another hung parliament. This political crisis may have a way to run.