Why would French government officials brief that they think it most likely Britain will leave the European Union without a deal? Boris Johnson hasn’t even made it as far as his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, and is only just being welcomed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. So why brief that out now, before the leaders have even spoken?
The comments appear to be part of the briefing war between European leaders and the British government, with neither side wanting to take the blame for any fallout from a no-deal Brexit. As I explained yesterday, the EU wants to paint Johnson as being set on taking Britain out without a deal, and therefore uninterested in realistic alternatives to the backstop, while Johnson would rather the British public saw no deal as being the fault of the stubborn EU. Comments from both sides are best interpreted through this prism, rather than as a particularly accurate commentary on the likelihood or otherwise of a deal.
That’s not to say that no deal isn’t highly likely. The Prime Minister and those around him are genuinely committed to leaving on 31 October one way or the other, hence the planned advertising campaign to prepare the public for leaving without a deal. But for the time being, interviews and anonymous briefings from either side in this negotiation need to be read not as accurate predictions, but as the latest round of bluff-calling and blame-preparation.