THE BLOG

The Ego Has Landed

21/09/2017 11:02 BST | Updated 21/09/2017 11:02 BST

This blog is adapted from the Thursday 21 September edition of The Waugh Zone, which can be read here, and subscribed to here

The RAF Voyager jet carrying Boris Johnson and Theresa May touched down back in London this morning after an extraordinary few days in north America. The pair of them are next off to the special 10am Cabinet meeting to discuss the PM's Brexit speech, ahead of its delivery in Florence tomorrow.

Word is that May spent most of the flight soundly asleep, even though Boris was not far away (having agreed to join her in a show of unity, rather than get an earlier commercial flight as originally planned). And one can imagine why her shut-eye was undisturbed, given that the Foreign Secretary appears to have retreated on most of his EU demands.

Yes, for all the sound and fury, insiders say Boris has agreed he won't argue for time limit on the transition period, and crucially won't oppose the UK continuing to pay for access to the EU single market in a transition. What his critics saw as an ego-trip, but allies saw as valuable restoration of Cabinet consultation, looks to have abated. And Boris won't be quitting, because he will be joining David Davis and Philip Hammond in the audience in Florence (originally one plan was just to have May and DD there, but addition of Boris and Spreadsheet Phil is a broad-church display now).

As for May's speech, even loyalists in the Cabinet have been irritated by the way No.10 have handled it, not least the idea they were to be presented with a 'fait accomplit', with the final speech presented to them this morning. After this morning, firm collective responsibility will be applied - to the Chancellor as much as Boris, some ministers have been told. In the Telegraph (more than ever the go-to paper of Brexiteers), ex May aide Nick Timothy suggests that Hammond sparked the unwelcome Boris outburst by freelancing himself.

Still, the message from Downing Street is that May won't offer a specific 'divorce bill' figure but will make a 'generous offer' and make clear in her wording that she doesn't want any EU state to lose out financially from the UK's departure. Some papers say May wants to pitch over the head of Michel Barnier directly to the EU27 leaders. Politico reports Barnier saying in private meetings that the UK "has done little to earn the trust it expects from the EU27" and that it will take years to seal the deal. He is even using a graph David Cameron once used to show how much individual states rely on being in the EU to punch above their weight.

There's a fantastic PA photo of May biting her lip as Boris points behind her at the UN (see above). Yet ultimately, for all the humiliation and theatre, May's allies say she is the one who has come out of this with a more unified position. Our Owen has done a nice guide to seven Cabinet ministers who quit in a huff in previous years. And it looks like BoJo won't be joining them. Yet.