AS strops go, it would be a monumental one. If, come the summer, the EU isn’t playing nice and giving in to everything the UK Government wants, Boris Johnson says he might just take his ball and go home.

It doesn’t matter that the EU has plenty of balls of its own, and plenty of other games to play. It’s irrelevant that Italy and Hungary literally have factories producing their own balls. They’ll still be sorry when the United Kingdom storms off.

Michel Barnier (below) might say we cannot have a deal “at any price”, but he must be bluffing, right?

In its breezy latest document, The Future Relationship: The UK’s Approach to Negotiations, the UK Government says it is committed to working in a “speedy and determined fashion” with a view to having the “broad outline” of a trade deal by June that could realistically be finalised by September. If that doesn’t happen – well, they can’t say they haven’t been warned.

The National:

If things don’t go our way we will scream and scream and … oh no, wait, I see it’s been worded slightly differently. The UK will then need to consider whether it should “move away from negotiations and focus solely on continuing domestic preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion”. Except by “orderly”, what’s meant is “marginally less terrifyingly chaotic”. And what they really mean by exiting the transition period (without a deal) is that we’d need to start preparing for a No-Deal Brexit.

Remember No-Deal Brexit? That scary prospect folk were all het up about for a while? There was much talk of it right up to the General Election campaign, when the repetition of a simple soundbite seemed to calm everyone’s nerves.

More fool anyone who trusted there was an “oven-ready” deal ready to go and that this meant all the wrangling would be over by Christmas. Presumably those people have never had the experience of taking a ready meal out of the office fridge at 1pm only to realise, far too late, that it cannot in fact be microwaved, and that lunch is going to have to be a packet of ridge-cut McCoys from the vending machine.

The pronouncements about an oven-ready deal did, of course, mean only that the UK had stopped arguing with itself. The next stage of negotiations was conveniently glossed over, and it seems thousands of voters were only too happy to delude themselves into believing this would be the end of the matter at long bloody last.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson: Warning over new 'code' for No-Deal Brexit

Sure, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen did make it very clear that Boris Johnson’s timetable for agreeing a trade deal with the EU would prove “extremely challenging”, but she said so the week before Christmas, when people were busy with wrapping presents, roasting chestnuts and listening to Now That’s What I Call Christmas on high volume instead of watching Newsnight and shouting at the TV.

Funnily enough, the Government’s new document doesn’t mention “No-Deal Brexit”, instead opting to gloss over the stark reality of what “moving away from negotiations” actually means.

On one hand the language suggests the UK can take or leave a deal, given its apparent willingness to stomp off in a huff unless it gets the exact deal it wants. But on the other hand the language suggests a fall-back deal has become available, or perhaps always was. “If it is not possible to negotiate a satisfactory outcome,” the UK Government says, “then the trading relationship with the EU will rest on the 2019 withdrawal agreement and will look similar to Australia’s”.

Ah well, that’s fine then, you might think. Australia must have a trade deal with the EU, perhaps even a good one – and if this was an option all along then why was everyone getting their knickers in such a twist and scare-mongering about No Deal? We’re copying the Australian immigration system (except for the bit that allows variations for different parts of the country – that bit is clearly deranged) so why can’t we just copy their relationship with the EU?

READ MORE: Michael Russell accuses Tories of setting EU trade deal bar low

There’s just one slight snag. Saying Australia has a relationship with the EU is like saying I have a relationship with Ryan Gosling. Technically, sure, it’s true – viewer/performer counts as a relationship of sorts – but the wording is a little misleading. Just as I would like to have a more meaningful relationship with Ryan, so too does Australia wish it had a trade deal with the EU. I concede that since negotiations between the EU and Australia have started – whereas Ryan has yet to respond to any of my letters – that dream is a little closer to becoming reality, but the fact remains that having the same EU trade deal as Australia means having none at all.

If Downing Street truly believes “regulatory freedom” is what the people of the UK prize at all cost, then perhaps they should come out and say it. What was the old phrase again? “No Deal is better than a bad deal”? I don’t remember mention of any Australian “relationships” back then. It’s almost like the Tories don’t want to let slip that the “oven-ready deal” wasn’t a done deal at all. You can stick just about anything into an oven. That doesn’t mean it will be edible once it’s cooked.