Molly Pollock takes an overlook at the murky world of continuing Brexit deception
“Everybody knows Boris Johnson can lie for England. To his supporters, it was one of his best assets. They believed he could bamboozle the European Union into giving him the only Brexit deal that is really acceptable – one that gives Britain all the advantages of being in the EU without any of the botheration of being a member. The problem is that congenital mendacity isn’t just for foreigners. If you lie for England, you will also lie to England.”
This was the first paragraph in a 10th September 2020 article in the Guardian by Fintal O’Toole, about the Tory government’s admission it had signed the EU withdrawal agreement with no intention of adhering to it. The government had purposefully deceived the EU negotiators, the EU and the 27 other countries within it, and had lied shamelessly and without a shred of remorse to the electorate and people in Northern Ireland in the December 2019 general election. To the Tories, the agreement was little more than a charade, a duplicitous exercise, a clever manoeuvre, or perhaps a desperate one to keep Brexit on the agenda.
The Policy Exchange is a Tory think tank, described in The Daily Telegraph in 2007 as “the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right”. In a speech to it on 27th April 2022, the Rt Hon Lord Frost of Allenton CMG, a Policy Exchange Senior Fellow, and Former Chief Negotiator for Exiting the European Union, spoke about The Northern Ireland Protocol: how we got here, and what should happen now? Frost confirmed this.
“We, as it turned out correctly, also had huge doubts about the workability and the political implications of the customs arrangements.”
With regard to the Withdrawal Agreement he goes on to say the Tories faced a choice. “Take the deal and hope it could be sorted out in 2020, or walk away, fail to deliver Brexit on the 31st October and almost certainly see the government collapse.” The Tories feared a second referendum, “perhaps with Brexit taken off the agenda for good, and who knows what consequences in our domestic politics.” That strongly suggests the Tories were not confident of Brexit being delivered and were concerned the road they wished to tread could be at risk. So everything was thrown at the election campaign. Truth was chucked out the window and the right-wing media piled in to help. Tory positions and livelihoods were at risk. So deception was the name of the game.
So the Tories decided “the lesser risk” was to push the deal though and trust they could sort out the necessary detail with the EU later, though walking away always remained an option. The thought of breaking international treaties gave few sleepless nights. Frost believes Brexit wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t agreed to the Northern Ireland Protocol, “and it was likely we’d still be in the EU now.” If only!
The full speech can be watched on the Policy Exchange website.
Brazenly sold to the electorate in the December 2019 election as an oven-ready deal, with mouth-watering advantages baked in, bursting with juicy benefits and tantalising assets. Many. of course, were well aware of the Brexit downsides, had been warning about it since long before the Brexit referendum. But others clung then, and still do, to the belief in sovereignty, having our own laws and not constrained by those of the EU, being able to protect our borders, getting rid of bureaucracy and red tape. But the deception, the endless slogans and lies repeated ad nauseam saw a hoodwinked public in England vote for the Tories and endorse the deal, though Scotland maintained its long run of not voting Tory. But Brexit and the Tory government got it’s seal of approval.
Meanwhile we have a cost of living crisis with food costs rising; a deterioration in the quality and diversity of food products from the EU; fuel bills rocketing to such an extent that a large number of people will be unable to pay them; EU produce being allowed into the UK without checks while exported UK produce is subject to them, making UK products uncompetitive with costs to meat producers up by 6%. The Tories think people can pay these increased costs from savings, too far distanced from reality to understand that many struggle to live as it is and that savings are impossible dream.
Tories were desperate to make Brexit a reality irrespective of the damage it would cause small businesses and livelihoods, and the international status of the UK. The Tories were determined they would not be subject to new financial regulation being introduced by the EU. Brexit was the answer to that. It was also the tool by which the size of the state could be cut through reductions in what it offered and through privatisation. More opportunities for money-making.
But even more than that, for some it was the route to remaining in power. The bills passed by the House of Lords last week, when many Labour peers failed to turn up to vote and where Labour had issued a three-line whip to abstain, are widely regarded as the end of democracy as we have known it for centuries. The checks and balances on the executive have been eroded, ditched, so that elections can be rigged to keep Tories in power – if indeed elections are now even held. The Fixed Term Parliament Act has been repealed, people will have to show approved identification to vote, and, thanks to Priti Patel, should they want to make their feelings felt about government policies they could find themselves with a seven year jail sentence because they were noisy. These new laws are at present applicable to England but with Westminster’s hostility to devolution and the UK Single Market Act, that and many other pieces of legislation for England could be rolled out over the UK, the Scottish Parliament overridden.
And then there’s the Electoral Commission, never a body with much in the way of teeth, that is now under the control of the UK government, at present under the portfolio of Michael Gove. Who can say what that might mean for an independence referendum.
So come Thursday, think carefully before you vote. Local Conservatives are merely another alias for the UK Conservative and Unionist Party – the same party that has brought about such chaos and turmoil that there are suggestions an early election might be held in the autumn. Johnson, it is said, would rather lose an election than resign or be replaced as PM. And if the Tories lost a general election then there would be upsides for the Tories as Labour would be left to clear up the almighty mess enabling a Tory return at the following election on a ticket of clearing up the shambles left by Labour.
The only way out of the slippery slope to full-blown fascism that the UK has embarked upon is to vote for independence. Then parties can work together with input from the public to shape the sort of compassionate, progressive country that Scotland can be and that we want to live in.