While Johnson plays games, the EU is preparing for life without us | Rafael Behr

The prime minister’s focus on what will go down well at home makes him an impossible negotiating partner

In a normal game of poker, a bluff cannot continue once it is called. But for Boris Johnson an exposed bluff can just be re-bluffed. The stakes get higher even when the poor hand lies open on the table.

Before entering Downing Street, Johnson claimed that deficiencies in Theresa May’s Brexit deal were caused by failure of nerve, not weakness in the UK’s position. The theory was that Brussels needed to see kamikaze intent in British eyes: total commitment to quitting the bloc with no deal. Only then would the cowardly continentals yield. It is true that the EU wants a deal, because of the harm that Brexit without one would do. But the harm is asymmetric. In a no-deal scenario, the UK suffers more and, after a period of gratuitous pain, returns to negotiations with diminished leverage. It was never a real bluff because the economic cards were dealt face up.

Related: Johnson has run out of road. Other people’s outrage is all he’s got now | Tom Kibasi

Johnson is committed to the fiction that Britain stands equal in global stature to the EU

Related: The Tories have lost their ideology. Now they are merely the party of resentment | William Davies

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