How can Boris Johnson pass a Brexit deal without the support of the Democratic Unionist party? The answer could lie in comments this afternoon made by Jean-Claude Juncker. The EU Commission president appeared to rule out an extension being offered to the United Kingdom if no deal is agreed. Speaking to the BBC, Juncker said there ‘must be no prolongation – it has to happen now’. He made similar comments to Sky News – suggesting that Boris Johnson’s deal was the only option they would be putting forward:

Sky News: Will you rule out an extension?

Juncker: If we have a deal. We have a deal. There is no need for a prolongation. That’s not only the British view it is my view as well

As James revealed earlier today, No. 10’s hope has been that the EU simply refuse to offer an extension. At that point the options open to MPs would be revoke, deal or no deal. It would also be a gift to Johnson as it means his government no longer need an obscure loophole to the Benn Act. What’s the point in asking for an extension (as the so-called Surrender Bill dictates) when the answer will be no? Cross-party MPs may have a majority in the Commons to try and prevent no deal but they have no such ability to force the EU to act in any given way.

Behind the scenes, figures in Downing Street have been pushing for an EU ultimatum on the issue for some time. There is a view – shared by a majority of ministers, including the Chief Whip – that to pass a deal without the support of the DUP, the prospect of no deal has to be real in order to get enough Labour MPs over the line. Tory MPs in discussions with No. 10 describe the team as bullish when it comes to the likelihood of a deal being passed this Saturday.

We now wait to see if the no extension message is formalized tonight when EU leaders meet with Johnson – the EU council have to say it for it to be the official position. If it is, so long as the bulk of the European Research Group are behind the deal, the chance of Johnson passing a deal rise significantly.

This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.