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Analysis

PM’s new 3 untruths and 2 promises

by Hugo Dixon | 20.10.2019

Boris Johnson yesterday told Parliament a pack of untruths and sprayed around false promises. But some former Tory MPs plan to back his terrible divorce deal. They should think again.

3 untruths

The Prime Minister was either deliberately misleading MPs yesterday – or he doesn’t even understand the deal he has just cut with the EU. 

  • He said there are “not any tariffs on goods… going GB-NI” [between Great Britain and Northern Ireland]. This is misleading. It’s true that article 5 of the new NI protocol says goods will not face tariffs – but it crucially adds unless they are “at risk” of entering the EU. What’s more, the criteria for determining whether goods are at risk of ending up in the EU will be decided after Brexit by a joint committee of the UK and the EU. This means that the EU will have a veto on the rules and could have a low tolerance for risk with the result that tariffs will be paid in lots of cases. (See para 2).
  • Johnson said the arrangements for NI will be “temporary”. Untrue again. Indeed, he has nixed the text in Theresa May’s original deal that talked about the arrangement applying only “temporarily” (Article 1.4, page 306). The arrangements can only be ended if a simple majority of the NI Assembly votes against them. (See Article 18 of the new protocol). But the chance of that happening is small since the DUP, which is opposed to the deal, doesn’t have a majority in the assembly, even when joined by other Unionist parties.
  • The Prime Minister added that the arrangements for NI would be “superseded” if there was a free trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and the EU. Again, this isn’t true. The new protocol drops a passage from May’s original agreement which said that the UK and EU shall use their “best endeavours to conclude, by 31 December 2020, an agreement which supersedes this Protocol”. (Article 2, para 1, page 307).

Johnson spouted the same three misleading statements when interviewed by the BBC’s political editor on Friday – and wasn’t challenged. Unless MPs and the media do a better job of exposing these falsehoods, he will get away with pulling the wool over Parliament’s eyes.

2 new false promises?

The Prime Minister has a habit of making promises he doesn’t keep. For example, saying he would prefer to be “dead in a ditch” rather than ask the EU to delay Brexit, a promise he broke yesterday. 

Or think of his betrayal of the DUP. He told its conference in 2018 that “no British Conservative government could or should sign up” to “regulatory checks and even customs controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. And yet his divorce deal does precisely that.

So that’s the context in which MPs should view two new pledges he made yesterday.

  • He gave an “absolute reassurance” that he would negotiate a “zero-tariff, zero-quota” FTA with the EU. How could he possibly give such a guarantee? Trade deals, after all, require the agreement of both parties – and the EU is already making clear that in order to give us a zero-tariff deal, we will have to agree not to engage in unfair competition by slashing regulations on things like workers’ rights and environmental standards.
  • That brings us to the Prime Minister’s second commitment – that workers rights will “never be inferior” to the EU, as well as to the “very highest” environmental standards. How can anybody believe this when he has removed a legally-binding commitment to precisely that from the previous divorce deal? (Article 6 and Annexes 2 and 4).

Johnson will try to get away with blue murder by ramming this terrrible deal through Parliament in the coming week. He is desperate to avoid scrutiny. 

It would be an outrage to determine our country’s future for decades to come without examining the details. So when the Prime Minister presents the “programme motion” – which may try to limit debate to only two days – MPs should just say “no”. 

The headline was changed from “How can MPs possibly trust this dishonest PM?”

Edited by James Earley

Categories: UK Politics

5 Responses to “PM’s new 3 untruths and 2 promises”

  • If I ever purchase a property in the future, perhaps I could send 2 letters to the vendor’s solicitors. One unsigned confirming the said purchase, and a second stating
    I didn’t really mean to send the first as I didn’t agree the price. I wonder how I’d get on. After all, if the UK Prime Minister could use a similar tactic, surely it would be above board?

  • Joanna Cherry QC has threatened Johnson with legal action in the event of his not complying with the Benn Act. His shameful conduct in not signing the letter sent to the EU means he has not complied but sought to by pass the legislation. So, I hope the formidable Ms Cherry takes the threatened action.
    Not only is Johnson a liar but a hypocrite of huge proportions. Seen recently in a sports supplement in The Guardian called the ‘Fiver’ they printed these two quotes from Johnson.

    Two Quotes from Boris Johnson
    10 January 2002: “What a relief it must be for [Tony] Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies … They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird” – Boris Johnson in the Telegraph.

    15 October 2019: “Uefa needs to face up to facts. This stain on football is not being adequately dealt with. Racism and discrimination must be driven out of football once and for all” – Boris Johnson’s official spokesman.

  • Sec 2 (4) of the Benn Act says that “the PM must…..by sending…. a letter…”.
    If he hasn’t signed it how does anybody know that he sent it?
    Yes, we know that Sir Tim Barrow sent a covering letter but how does he know that Johnson sent the photocopy.
    I don’t think the Act allows for someone else to send it.

  • Why no one should be taken in by Johnson’s ‘Deal’
    In essence his game plan is:
    1. Get Deal through anyway he can.
    2. Hold an Election while there is an agreement where nothing changes much, but he can claim he has delivered.
    3. Hold an election, winning with an increased number of Euro sceptics, while everyone is thinking Brexit has been OK and project fear is dismissed.
    He will no longer need the DUP or Labour MPs feeling that they must respect the Referendum result. All the promises about respecting workers rights or environmental standards will be quickly despatched and replaced with the ‘ Britannia Unchained’ manifesto.
    4. Claim the EU has not given us a Trade Deal by December 2020 (an impossible feat)
    5. Crash out on WTO tariffs, effectively a delayed No Deal.
    This is how the ERG came to love the Deal, and the Attorney General has told them this is a perfectly possible outcome.
    The plan is to hoodwink Parliament, The EU and the public.
    Hugo you are an old friend of Johnson. Why not point out he has been rumbled?

  • Borisolini’s sending of two letters to the EU on the issue of extension is yet a further demonstration of the brexiteers’ lack of good faith. International law imposes an obligation on States to act in good faith; the UK is in breach of this legal obligation and will be found to be so if and when this matter comes before an international court.