WITH THE parliament at Westminster suspended, it is place your bets time for the outcome of the Brexit negotiations – or should that be non-negotiations.

After talking tough, Boris Johnson, it seems, is backing down. He has met some, and will meet more EU leaders to try to find a deal. This is largely because he now has no options beyond compromise.

He cannot win a 'no deal' Brexit; he cannot hold an election; he does not want to debate an electoral pact with Nigel Farage – so he has to find a deal.

Even the most doggedly determined Brexiteers in the Conservative party must see this, along with the fact that a deal is the best way to win a general election without support from Farage. This week the only positive for Johnson came at a trade union event, where Jeremy Corbyn showed that, months before an election, his muddled policies will keep him out of Downing Street.

Add all that into the mix and my bet would be on a deal at the October EU heads of state summit. It will be Theresa May's withdrawal deal, wrapped in new clothes, with some changes to the Irish backstop to avoid a hard border.

The DUP will reject this, but with an election looming Johnson will gamble he can get the deal through parliament without DUP support. This will involve bringing the Tory rebels he sacked back into the party. He will then go for a general election, confident he can convince people he delivered Brexit without destroying the economy.

The political rhetoric at Westminster is hiding the reality that farmers can be a bit more relaxed now about a 'no deal' outcome. It is not off the table, but it is undeliverable thanks to MPs making a stand before parliament was suspended. That and the lack of a parliamentary majority have forced compromise to the top of the agenda. My betting on the outcome might be entirely wrong, but it is the only direction in which logic is pointing.

Boris Johnson has had plenty of nightmare outcomes in recent weeks and the latest was the appointment of the former farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, as EU trade commissioner. This is a powerful position in the EU hierarchy, and it is partly a reward for Hogan having done a good job in agriculture – not least in helping push EU food exports to record levels. He has never made any secret of his dislike of Brexit and its advocates. This is partly because as an Irish politician, he knows the damage it could cause the Irish economy.

He has been caustic in his comments. He has forecast a big difference between hope and experience of Brexit; he has said Britain outside the EU will be returning to medium-sized nation status; be has referred to Johnson, Farage and Rees-Mogg as the 'three stooges' who do not understand what Brexit means; on the DUP's Brexit strategy he said 'naked hypocrisy would be an understatement, given how well Northern Ireland has done from the EU over many years.

Most recently he used the Churchill quote to sum up the Johnson cabinet, claiming that 'never had so few sought to inflict so much pain on so many' UK citizens. These are the sort of comments that make Big Phil, as he is known, popular with journalists and a first rate performer on the political stump.

Hogan will now be responsible for drawing up a free trade deal between the EU-27 and the UK, and this will be no easy ride for UK politicians or diplomats. Play their cards right and they will find him a pragmatist that wants a deal – but he holds all the best cards.

The EU already has trade deals with most of the countries with which the UK wants to secure deals. Hogan can be an ally or an enemy in this process, but what was claimed to be the 'easiest trade deal in history' has just got a lot harder.

As to the new EU farm commissioner, the post has gone to Poland. Janusz Wojciechowski is a controversial politician and former judge, who has a radical political heritage and is a columnist for an ultra-Catholic radio channel. He will be tested over CAP reform, but as things stand, the farming lobby is likely to find him very different to the hands-on Phil Hogan, with his first rate understanding of agriculture.