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Robert Peston: Has Dublin rescued Boris Johnson?

Perhaps both leaders are moving in a significant way, writes Robert Peston. Credit: PA

I pass on, with little confidence or real understanding, that Boris Johnson seems to believe that Leo Varadkar and Dublin have lessened their objections of principle to his Brexit offer.

Maybe both sides are moving in a significant way. We'll see.

What I should point out however is that if the negotiations were to collapse this weekend, that would be the worst timing for Johnson, because it would spur rebel Tory MPs to use SO24 next week to take control of Commons business - and they would try to get a motion passed in favour of a referendum on May's gone-but-not-forgotten Brexit deal.

When that flopped (as it probably would), the rebels would go for a vote of no confidence, to engineer Johnson's removal.

If negotiations break down this weekend, Tory rebels could use SO24 to take control of the Commons. Credit: PA

As I understand it, this has been their plan.

However if Dublin and [on Friday] Brussels signal a deal is a genuine possibility, even the ultras among Tory rebels will feel obliged to give Johnson and his negotiators the time and space to try and conclude that deal.

In other words, Johnson's optimism and apparent readiness to adapt his offer may be real or may be a ruse.

Either way, the hint of an entente is perfectly timed, to limit the risk that backbench MPs take Johnson hostage before next Thursday's EU council meeting, when EU leaders face their darkest Brexit hour and hardest Brexit decision - namely whether to close the door on a Brexit offer from Johnson they hate, and trust that backbench MPs will usurp him, rescue them and prevent a no-deal Brexit.

In keeping the talks going, Johnson is massively increasing the jeopardy for EU leaders.