If the EU had granted the UK an extension until the end of this year or for another 12 months, there would have been a Tory leadership contest and then a general election. Yesterday, key figures in the party were discussing a timetable that would have seen a new leader in place by the summer, a blitz on domestic policy and then a general election in the autumn. But the 31 October deadline complicates matters. Any new Tory leader would have to go to the country straight away, which is not an appealing prospect given the Tory party’s current travails. So, the chances of a Tory leadership contest and a general election have receded.
The irony of the situation is that both the Macron and Merkel approaches might have broken the Brexit impasse. A short extension would have forced parliament to, finally, make some decisions. A long extension would have provided enough time for this failing parliament to be replaced by one capable of resolving the issue. But this medium length extension might end up doing neither and lead to nothing but more drift.