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Sophy Ridge: The language of Brexit must turn to peace

Rhetoric: Johnson in the Commons PICTURE: EYEVINE

IT’S war. Nobody who witnessed the angry scenes in the House of Commons this week can conclude anything else.

Boris Johnson told one MP that it was ‘humbug’ to suggest he should moderate his language because of safety concerns.

And Brendan Cox, widower of the murdered MP Jo Cox, said the prime minister’s claim that her memory could be properly honoured by leaving the European Union had left him feeling ‘a bit sick’.

Some in No.10 will see this as a success and all part of a wider strategy for a ‘parliament versus the people’ general election.

For every voter who will recoil at Mr Johnson’s performance, there is a Leave voter who will rejoice — or so the calculation goes. And if the Remain vote is split between Labour and the Lib Dems, if Mr Johnson can mop up the bulk of the Leave vote then he has a path to a majority.

For it to work, the PM must do battle — against Remainers in parliament, against Brussels, against the judiciary if necessary — to prove he is sticking up for the referendum result.

The Supreme Court ruling that Mr Johnson acted unlawfully by proroguing parliament plays into the same narrative (remember Michael Gove saying, during the referendum campaign, that people have had enough of experts?).

The culture war that will follow — in fact, that is happening now — is an inevitable consequence. And it really is a war, just as in Donald Trump’s America.

Some of the aggressive, violent rhetoric will undoubtedly play well among a section of the population. But that doesn’t mean it is acceptable — in fact, just the opposite.

When MPs are having to instal panic alarms and receiving death threats against them and their families, there is a responsibility to do politics better.

And — as any former prime minister will tell you — it’s one thing winning the war.

The real challenge is winning the peace.

Is Boris bluffing… or has he spotted loophole in law?

Posing question: Ian Murray PICTURE: GETTY

AMID all the anger and emotion in the Commons chamber on Wednesday — when MPs argued with the prime minister about the use of violent rhetoric in the Brexit debate and the memory of murdered MP Jo Cox — something very significant slipped under the radar.

The Labour MP Ian Murray asked Boris Johnson that if he doesn’t get a Brexit deal through the House of Commons by October 19, will he seek an extension from the European Union?

The prime minister replied simply: ‘No.’

What does this mean?

Legislation passed by parliament earlier this month compels him to ask for a further Brexit extension rather than allow the UK to leave with no deal on October 31.

Will he break the law (something he has said he won’t do)?

Is there a legislative loophole that No.10 has spotted? Is he bluffing?

As with so much in politics, it’s impossible to tell.

If Juncker says so, can a deal really be done?

Staying positive: Jean-Claude Juncker PICTURE: GETTY

OF COURSE, the one sure-fire way to both stop a no-deal Brexit and guarantee we leave on October 31 is to pass a deal.

I conducted a rare UK broadcast interview last week with Jean-Claude Juncker — the president of the European Commission and one of the few people who really knows what’s going on when it comes to Brexit.

He told me there is a chance of a deal and that the Irish backstop can go if other alternatives can be found that meet the same objectives.

He also made it plain that there would be a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic if the UK leaves without a deal (in a warning to Ireland) and said he is convinced that Brexit will happen (directed at those who want to Remain).

I was genuinely struck by how positive he seemed about the chances of a deal — despite the fact that the two sides still seem an awfully long way apart.

Is this because an agreement really could be reached before the deadline?

Or because the EU wants to show it is negotiating in good faith so it isn’t blamed for a no-deal exit?

Right now, I have no idea.

■ MY PROGRAMME Sophy Ridge On Sunday will come live from Conservative Party conference in Manchester this weekend — and, in many years of covering conferences, I can’t remember a more surreal and extraordinary political backdrop. It’s 8.30am on Sky News this Sunday — you don’t want to miss it.

@SophyRidgeSky