Three events will dominate next week. The Supreme Court’s decision on the legality of prorogation, Labour conference and the UN General Assembly.
As I say in The Sun this morning, Boris Johnson’s address in New York will be more ‘Green Giant’ than ‘Incredible Hulk’. He’ll stress the UK’s environmental credentials; announcing a new biodiversity fund designed to help save the African elephant, the black rhino and the pangolin.
But more important than the speech he’ll make is the meetings that will take place in the margins. He’ll see most of the key players in the Brexit talks in New York, including a meeting with the Irish leader Leo Varadkar on Monday. He is also expected to see Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, possibly together.
The meeting with Varadkar is particularly important as Jean-Claude Juncker essentially told Boris Johnson at their lunch this week that he needed to first get the Irish on board for any alternative to the backstop.
Despite the official line that all negotiations are between the UK and the European Commission, the Johnson Varadkar meeting will essentially be a negotiation. As one senior government source explains with deadlines looming ‘the timings are such you can’t do everything through those formal channels’.
The Brexit negotiations haven’t broken down but nor are they moving forward as much as they need to. The EU’s reaction to the UK’s ‘non-papers’ has been pretty negative. As one of those intimately involved puts it, ‘We are definitely making progress but there is a very long way to go’. One of those close to the talks tells me that ‘we need to move faster’.
The next few days in New York will go a long way to telling us whether a deal can be done or not.