ONE question has dominated this week’s news: does Boris Johnson want a deal with the EU?

We are told the President of the EU Commission believes he does. The Irish Prime Minister leans towards the same conclusion, but many senior diplomats and EU officials disagree. To them, this week’s “final offer” is merely a cynical ruse designed to dump the blame on European governments when it fails.

It can be taken as read that Johnson is not averse to lying to get his own way. Indeed, his whole career illustrates that he does not have much, if any, regard for the truth.

Not many journalists have been sacked for inventing quotes, but he was. Not many politicians have been dismissed for lying to their party leader, but it happened to him. Not many public figures are recorded agreeing to provide a friend with information which would result in a reporter being beaten up, but that tape has been played on national television.

He and those around him have attempted to craft his image as that of a highly intelligent, charming rogue with a heart of gold. But many who have worked with him tell a different story.

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To them, his charm is thin and his anger not slow to rise if he believes he is being thwarted. They talk of someone who is utterly and completely self-obsessed. Everything and everyone around him is mere fodder for his gargantuan sense of entitlement.

To May, Brexit meant Brexit. To Johnson, Brexit was a route to the highest office in the land. Brexit was his noblest prospect, to misquote another Johnson, even though we now know he neither understood it nor believed in it.

But character is not all. Even the worst can rise to the occasion and perhaps cometh the time, cometh a new Boris, full of noble purpose and determined to succeed in the most important job of his life.

Yet people are, in part, known by those they associate with, and for a Prime Minister that allows a very public judgement. There are not many in his hand-picked cabinet you would send for the messages, and certainly not without demanding receipts, while in his back room lurks the strange figure of Dominic Cummings – who has already been held in contempt of Parliament, but who can now freely roam the Westminster corridors dismissing MPs as people he has never heard of and barracking the leader of the Opposition.

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Everything publicly known about Cummings – a former special adviser to Michael Gove and director of the Vote Leave campaign – would make any observer leery of trusting him. Accordingly, if he is masterminding the search for a deal, it is fair to assume that he is, at the very least, indifferent to the prospects of finding one.

Finally, there is the “deal” itself. It is clear that it lacks key elements that would make it possible to be accepted by the EU and includes some ill-thought-out aspects which may be fatal to it. One of those is the proposed Stormont veto which initially seemed a major and divisive concession to the DUP but now, as some Northern Irish Unionists are slowly realising, may actually and accidentally provide an opportunity for a border poll by proxy every four years.

SNP MP Drew Hendry also cleverly pointed out in a question to Johnson on Thursday that this idea completely sinks the Tory argument that Scotland shouldn’t be allowed to reconsider its own future some five years after the first indyref.

But one hitherto hardly noticed aspect of the plan is for me the clincher. Apparently, the UK has signalled its intention to renege on May’s agreement to observe what is called a “level playing field” after withdrawal – a continued alignment with key European employment protections, human rights and environmental standards.

That would free the UK to become the deregulated, race-to-the-bottom, tax-and-public-services-slashing economy that many right-wing Tories have sought for years.

The EU have made no secret of the fact that they see such a step as one which would severely damage the progressive single market which they have worked so hard to establish.

Consequently, Johnson and Cummings know full well that they have set a condition which is impossible for Brussels to accept.

Sherlock Holmes memorably told Dr Watson: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Measured by that standard, and by his past record, the likely truth is that Johnson doesn’t want a deal.