The next 'Brexit Day' deadline is roughly three weeks away, and as Prime Minister Boris Johnson rallies support for his new Brexit plan, British media report that he has started playing 'hardball' with the EU.
In an effort to discourage the EU from extending the Brexit deadline, the Telegraph reports that Johnson has threatened to sabotage the bloc's next seven-year budget, while sending Nigel Farage to Brussels as the UK's EU commissioner.
As for the EU's 2021-2027 budget, Brussels hopes it will be approved in March, but Johnson could veto it with the stroke of a pen if the UK is still in the EU come March.
Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister, praised Johnson's alleged plan, describing Nigel Farage as a "nuclear weapon" being sent "into the heart of the asteroid," the British tabloid the Sun reports. Johnson would be sending Farage with the explicit purpose to "disrupt the bloc's workings" and "sabotage" EU structures.
Johnson released a new Brexit deal last week that would in effect keep Northern Ireland in the EU single market for all goods while following UK customs rules. The plan would also give Northern Ireland a vote whether to remain party to the arrangement every four years (like the hated Irish Backstop, the new plan would only take effect if negotiations between the UK and the EU over a future trading relationship fail).
Irish PM Leo Varadkar has insisted that a deal could be reached over the next two weeks, though many other EU officials, including Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, have poured cold water on the proposal's chances of success. And even Varadkar said Johnson's plan would merely form the basis of "deeper negotiations."
Assuming the EU backs Johnson's deal, or some version of it, the PM believes he can get the Tory rebels below 10, which could help him push it over the line thanks to the support of the 10-member DUP. Johnson needs 320 votes for a Commons majority.
"MPs from every wing of my own Conservative Party, from Northern Ireland's DUP, even from Jeremy Corbyn's own ranks, have said that our proposed deal looks like one they can get behind," Johnson said recently.
"Where the previous Withdrawal Agreement, backstop and all, drove an almighty wedge through the heart of Parliament, I have heard positive noises from across the House."
Last night, the plan won the backing of former PM David Cameron who told an audience that Johnson had a "good chance" of winning a deal with the EU.