lie, lie and lie again. This is the maxim that, as usual, guided Boris Johnson’s behaviour in the House of Commons last night. His aim was to get a deal with the EU (it isn’t), talks with Brussels were making progress (they are not), and he doesn’t want an election (he does). MPs challenged him repeatedly on the first two lies last night and all he did was to tell them again. Trust in Britain’s prime minister and Brexit cult leader is at rock bottom and last night even a significant number of members of his own party deserted him, including the former Chancellor, Philip Hammond, and Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames. With a larger majority than at first expected, a cross-party alliance of MPs seized control of the order of business of the House of Commons in order to allow time for debate on an anti-no-deal bill today, Wednesday 4 September.
The ‘sham’ negotiations that the Johnson government are engaged in with Brussels are, by definition, an abuse of diplomacy for domestic political purposes, and it is disappointing that a former British diplomat, David Frost, is lending himself to this transparent chicanery. On leaving the Diplomatic Service in 2013, Frost became CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association but surrendered this position to become special adviser to Johnson not long after he became foreign secretary in 2016; the relationship was revived after Johnson became prime minister. It is also a great pity that the EU must play along with these sham negotiations in order to avoid being blamed too easily by Johnson for a no-deal Brexit. The tactic of talking up the talks, which I discuss in my textbook (pp. 63-4), is only suitable to a genuine negotiation in which success at some stage is known to be near but where there is a danger that, for some reason or other, it might be deflected or sabotaged.