“When future historians try to understand how Britain ended up with a choice between chaos and becoming a satellite of the European Union, one question will stump them,” wrote Fintan O’Toole in this Irish Times column in November 2018. “Were these people telling deliberate lies or were they merely staggeringly ignorant? Where does mendacity stop and idiocy begin?”
Brexit is, supposedly, done, but the question remains.
And the issue has been highlighted more starkly than ever before by the revelation that Victoria Prentis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food in Johnson’s Government had not read the Brexit Deal when it was finalised. As reported by The Guardian, when asked if her jaw had dropped when she saw the deal with the EU on Christmas Eve, Prentis told the Lords EU Environment Subcommittee: “No, the agreement came when we were all very busy on Christmas Eve, in my case organising the local nativity trail.”
This of course prompted a fair amount of critique:
In how many jobs could you admit to almost criminal negligence and still be employed? https://t.co/LUMm1xpoYI
— Brian Moore (@brianmoore666) January 13, 2021
Scottish fishers have already lost thousands of £s, @Dr_PhilippaW says. “For the Tory government's Fisheries Minister to then admit that she did not even bother to read the details of the damaging deal because she was too busy is unbelievable and makes her position untenable.”
— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) January 13, 2021
But hang on a minute.
What about the Prime Minister?
Good grief, Johnson does not comprehend even the basic facts of the deal he negotiated.
Challenged on the issue of visa free reciprocal rights for touring artists, he deflects by saying that UK musicians have "the right to go play in any EU country for 90 out of 180 days". ~AA pic.twitter.com/rjc4Ui6y8o
— Best for Britain (@BestForBritain) January 13, 2021
The Prime Minister has stated he has read the Brexit Deal – quoted by Reuters here (thanks Barış Çelik for the find!) but judging by his abject answers to questions about the Deal, we are left confused as to whether he has read it and has not understood it, or has not even bothered, or – perhaps worse still – he is deliberately lying about the contents of it.
Or – putting it another way – when it comes to Johnson and reading the Deal there is doubt. Is it incompetence or malevolence? We don’t know. And hence it is hard to nail him for it.
By contrast what Prentis said is simple for everyone to handle – it’s incompetence, and she is called out for that. But, weirdly, I feel almost sorry for her – had she been a more accomplished liar, she would more easily have got away with having not read the Deal. Somehow her admission was strangely honest, and in these strange times in UK politics that stands out.
As Garry Kasparov has said, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” How simple it is to respond to Prentis’s honest incompetence, while we struggle with Johnson’s malevolent deceit, is testimony to that.
[UPDATE 14.1.2021, 1445]
So now it’s all clear? 🤔
Asked if Boris Johnson has read the Brexit deal in full, his spokesman replies that "the prime minister is fully aware of the deal."
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) January 14, 2021
[UPDATE 14.1.2021, 1500]
Which has now become he hasn’t read it…
Downing Street has signalled that Boris Johnson has not read the full text of his EU trade deal, telling reporters only that the prime minister was “fully aware” of its contentshttps://t.co/oHdLUiOa7d
— The Independent (@Independent) January 14, 2021