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Boris Johnson's act of Brexit self harm

Boris Johnson's failed coup has ended up strengthening a weak Prime Minister. Credit: PA

You will read in various newspapers that a deal has been done between Downing Street and the foreign secretary on the glide path to total Brexit, that has persuaded Boris Johnson not to quit.

According to well placed sources it is true that Johnson is not quitting - or at least not now. And indeed Johnson said as much to me, Pienaar and Rigby this morning, as you will recall.

But those sources also insist May has not offered Johnson a deal, and that he has not persuaded her to change her Brexit plans in anyway.

What seems to have happened is that he exaggerated to himself how angry Tory MPs and members would be by her moves to bow to pressure, especially from the chancellor, for a transition deal that would involve the UK continuing to pay perhaps £10bn a year into European Union coffers, to preserve the UK's trading arrangements with the EU's single market for two or maybe three years.

Philip Hammond has been pressing Mrs May to soften Brexit with a transition period. Credit: PA

It turns out, seemingly to Johnson's surprise, that Brexiteers are not that fussed about the UK continuing to make payments into the EU for a limited period - so long as the UK eventually lands where May has been promising it would land, namely with no further big budget payments, control of immigration and no role in the UK for the European Court of Justice.

So Johnson committed the cardinal sin for a politician: he looked like he was organising a coup only to bottle it at the off; he tried to march his troops to the top of the hill, found his troops were a small, ineffectual rabble, and promptly marched them down again.

He has achieved what looked impossible. In defying a weak prime minister, his failure has strengthened her.

Johnson was one of the key faces of the Leave campaign. Credit: PA

Seemingly she will emerge unscathed from her Brexitspeech on Friday (though don't expect her to actually announce a number for howmuch the UK would pay to the EU during transition, as the so-called divorcebill - she will simply repeat what she always says about being prepared to meetour obligations).

But this is a temporary ceasefire not the end of the war.The big cabinet battle, about the permanent new relationship with the EU, is yet to be fought. And when it is, either the foreign sec or chancellor will be a casualty.