Johnson Intended to Break the Withdrawal Agreement Even Before He Signed It 207

As I wrote 11 months ago, Raab and Johnson sought legal advice on breaking the Withdrawal Agreement even before signing it, in a truly shocking example of bad faith negotiation. If mainstream journalists did the slightest actual journalism, they would have realised this was always Johnson’s plan.

As I wrote on October 15 2019, while the Withdrawal Agreement was being negotiated with the EU:

There is currently considerable alarm in the FCO that Legal Advisers have been asked about the circumstances constituting force majeure which would justify the UK in breaking a EU Withdrawal Agreement in the future. The EU did not fall for Johnson’s idea that a form of Northern Irish “backstop” would only come into effect with the future sanction of Stormont, as this effectively gives a hardline unionist veto, and Barnier was not born yesterday. The situation that Johnson and Raab appear now to contemplate is agreeing a “backstop” now to get Brexit done, but then not implementing the agreed backstop when the time comes due to “force majeure”.

There are two major problems with this line of thinking. The first is that it will give unionists an incentive to foment disorder in order to justify breaking the backstop agreement – indeed there is a concern that might be the tacit understanding Johnson is reaching with the DUP. Remember the British state conspired with the same people to murder the lawyer Pat Finucane and destroyed the evidence as recently as 2002.

The second problem is one of bad faith negotiation, and this is what is troubling the diplomats of the FCO. To negotiate an agreement with the secret intention of breaking it in future is a grossly immoral proceeding, and undermines the whole principle of good international relations. I should like to be able to say that I am sure this cannot be the intention. But when I look at Johnson, Raab and Cummings, I am really not so sure at all. It is possible that Johnson will succeed in the apparently insurmountable challenge of securing a deal all parties can agree, by the simple strategy of promising some parties he has no intention of honouring it.

For Johnson, the Withdrawal Agreement provisions on Northern Ireland were only ever a device to get him over an immediate political difficulty. The fact he simply lied throughout the election campaign that the Withdrawal Agreement imposed no new checks or paperwork between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, should have made plain he was not serious about it. He had simply lied to the countries of the EU in signing a treaty he never had an intention to honour. He simply does not see himself as bound by any notion of honour or honesty.

The UK is acting grossly illegally in continuing to occupy the Chagos Islands against the firm direction of the International Court of Justice and the UN General Assembly. It is a rogue state. It is led by a man whose word cannot be trusted even when he signs a treaty. Other states do notice this kind of thing. Whether you are in favour of Brexit or against it, nobody can sensibly suggest this kind of gross insult to the European Union is a sensible way to start a future relationship.


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207 thoughts on “Johnson Intended to Break the Withdrawal Agreement Even Before He Signed It

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  • Lorna Campbell

    Had the EU bent over backwards, he would have been forced to follow the agreement. He wanted the EU to back down and give him what he wanted, while also calculating what would happen if he went for a NO Deal scenario. Cynical but probably no different from contracts made between some companies, and certainly not any different from the social contract between the citizen and any government anywhere. Blame the other side, always. He is not to be trusted, ergo no one will trust him. He will get trade deals, but they will never be the trade deals he wanted and the UK needs. This lot are up a creek without a paddle and they know it.

    Cummings is a libertarian who believes in nothing but his own wants and needs and comforts. Johnson hired him as a cattle rancher hired a gunslinger to do his dirty work. Any opposition that expected anything resembling decency from this lot of right-wing proto fascists and totalitarians, with the odd libertarian thrown in for good measure, does not deserve to be in power. We should stop worrying about what Johnson and Cummings are doing and get on with finding our way out. We will get no help from the ultra Unionists and the London branch parties, so forget them. If we want out, we have to use the same tactics as they do and pay not the slightest heed to anything with the name, law, attached to it. All this breast-beating and strange fondness for the law when Johnson breaks it but not when international law is there for us to use via the Treaty or via the UN Charter, is puke-inducing. Pile the pressure on the FM and her cohort, folks, to take their middle digits out of their nether orifices and get us out, or just accept that we will soon be English and start honing your accent to match. You’d almost think that the SG has accepted that already.

  • Eoin

    The descendants of Richielieu and Bismarck didn’t come down the Rhine on a bubble yesterday. And as for Ireland, there’s the annual Ballinasloe horse fair where Travellers for the most part buy and sell horses and the rest of us pretend it an agri-fair. There’s not a thing we haven’t not seen with negotiations – walking away in disgust, over promising, threats, flattery [in Gaelic, plamás sounds just what it means], cross promotions, appeals to atavism, we’ve seen it all before. Unlike the UK, the EU is predictable and through a process of consensus basically sound and perhaps not genius, but sensible.

    It’s just surprising over here to see a minister or secretary of state stand up in the dignity of the House of Commons to announce they’ll break the law in a specific and limited way. But, you know, we’ll get over it.

  • 6033624

    I remember you stating this at the time and the speech on the matter being made in the Commons too. We’ve reached a stage where Tory MPs are now making arguments about how ‘normal’ it is to break international law and how they are “political constructs”

    We have sunk so far down we don’t even deny being lawbreakers nor our bad faith but merely say everyone else does it as justification. With Brexit and COVID coinciding and being dealt with by the worst possible government I just hope and pray we can get our independence soon..

    • Squeeth

      Fifty years of intensified class war has led to this, an executive beholden to no-one. Stalin would be pleased.

  • JohninMK

    The Withdrawl Agreement was always sitting on thin ice, it took a great deal of ‘flexibility’ on both sides to get it signed. The Sovereignty and the ‘negotiate in good faith’ clauses were always going to be its weak spots. The first was perhaps reasonable but how the latter got through the EU lawyers is astonishing. A bit like Art 50 in the Lisbon Agreement.

    The EU, in its aggressive stance of concentrating on fishing and state aid, seems to have ignored the potential of the latter clause in particular to seriously backfire on them. It is almost as if they believed that in the end, in the face of their trenchant position, that the UK would give way. As it is the UK held to its line.

    This has put the UK in the interesting position of being able to argue that it is the EU who has broken the WA due to clear stance of negotiating without good faith i.e. in effect bullying the weaker partner, with all that follows from it.

    Whether this is part of Boris’s ‘lying’ or the UK negotiating team very cleverly protecting its back in anticipation of what they thought the EU might do is pretty moot. Either way it was brilliant from the UK’s perspective as the negotiating power is now in our hands. Either the EU accepts a Trade Deal much more in our favour or it is going to go down as the bad guy, forcing the breaking of the Good Friday Agreement by the hard border they are going to have to force the Irish to put up. The EU’s reaction now is a reflection of that.

    I think that there is another potential sting in this tale. I don’t know the details but it seems that if we exit on no trade deal and no WA then the WTO/ GATT rules say that the current arrangements i.e. in this case no tariffs, continue for a period to allow time for the new arrangement. If so, we operate free trade, subject to current limits, with the EU in 2021.

    The Withdrawal Act Bill now in Parliament can be seen not as the UK breaking International ‘Law’ but as a further negotiating tool. If we had not done it the EU would not have seen how serious we were.

    Never thought I’d see it, a UK team playing international hardball as good as anyone. A positive sign for our future outside the EU.

    Now all we have to do next year is to persuade the Irish that leaving the EU is to their benefit too. Especially if we package it a deal with a united Ireland, a British Isles Free Trade Area and a pot of cash.

    • laguerre

      Amazing how Brexiters remain as uncomprehending as they ever were. Nothing’s changed in four years.

      • Goose

        MEPs have a veto, and the mood in Europe is hardening against Johnson with these antics if anything. They’re in no mood to be intimidated by London. Though it would hurt them, ultimately, EU capitals know with ‘no deal’, like a siege, the UK will be broken first – probably within six months. Then the EU will be able to dictate any terms they want to a desperate UK. Especially if the UK is dealing with an unsympathetic Biden/Pelosi.

        Brexiters think the country can thrive on bitterness towards the EU and not much else besides, without the population revolting.

        Most UK people aren’t obsessed with waving Union flags, singing ‘Rule Britannia!’ and sticking it to the French and Germans. And as for Brexiters’ weird, pathetic subservience to the US, we don’t want that either.

        • JohninMK

          I’m sorry but I don’t understand your use of “siege” and “the UK broken first”.

          Are you implying that, contrary to other International Agreements that the EU is going to close the borders to the UK? To try to starve us into submission both in terms of food and money?

          I don’t know any Brexit voter who has any “bitterness” towards the EU let alone “sticking” it to them. As a minimum we love going there and buy their products in greater amounts than they buy ours.

          The “pathetic subservience” to the US is not a particular trait of the Brexiteers either, just some of our stupid politicians.

          • Peter Hall

            “I don’t know any Brexit voter who has any “bitterness” towards the EU let alone “sticking” it to them.”

            That is true of me too, but I know no Brexit voters.

            On the other hand, I do read comments in the Express, where they are replete with bitteness and even hatred to the EU.

          • Squeeth

            Don’t worry, it’s the usual bitterness of the loser; liberals get like that when they are contradicted.

          • PeeMer

            If you can hand on heart say you don’t know of any Brexit voters who are not consumed by either bitterness or outright blind hatred towards the EU then based on my experience I can only assume you must have been living in a Buddhist monastery for the last 5 years (and much longer). And the referendum victory has if anything made them even more blind and bitter and hateful. It is a textbook example of how quite a large portion of a population can be fed a narrative of suffering and oppression out of absolutely nothing.

            I agree that the “pathetic subservience” to the US is not by any means limited to Brexiteers but it goes far beyond “some stupid politicians.” Its source is a basic function of our media, often owned by foreign corporations, and goes right across the political spectrum. It isn’t just the ERG and their elite cohorts but one sees it also in the conscious promotion of movements like BLM in this country. Many black people in this country do suffer, but it a suffering they share with many white people, for instance long term unemployment (often across generations). BLM is a classic “divide and rule” philosophy.

      • JohninMK

        Maybe, but some of us made the decision with our eyes wide open well aware of the risks, especially in our politicians, and are still very comfortable with the path we chose.

        No one knows how it will turn out, especially in the new Covid ravaged world, but being a small independent country can be an advantage over being a part of a huge, unwieldy entity. Particularly in trade deals where the risks on both sides are much lower and the decisions can be made much quicker.

        • Goose


          I’m implying that if the UK pushes this to anything resembling a trade war with the EU, by inviting sanctions, heavy tariffs and quotas, we in the UK can’t win such a standoff.

          As for being a small independent country.

          Were we a small independent country it’d be safe to experiment building new trading relationships. But with 66.65 million and a hugely complex expensive social fabric to service, including the NHS, we aren’t in a position to be adventurous; get this gamble wrong and the consequences can be horrible.

          • JohninMK

            Indeed there is no way that the UK could win in such a situation but both sides would suffer. That suffering being more serious for the UK would perhaps lead to an element of caution in London.

            You are right, there is a great deal at stake and many have no faith in the players.

        • laguerre

          Craig warned us at the beginning of this thread that the EU were legitimately free to negotiate in their own interests, and I would expect them to do so. If they feel, as they appear to do, that participation in the single market requires participation in the costs and conformity to rules (+ all the other agreements, like Galileo, crime databases, etc), then that is a legitimate position. It is not a question of “punishing” Britain as most Brexiters claim.

          Britain gained enormously from participation, and the loss, coming up on 31/12, will be sore. Saying we don’t need all that is of course indeed legitimate; no-one can say no. Replacing all that, though, will be a years-long operation, and the Brexiter Tory government is doing poorly in the effort, as far as can be detected so far. They can’t even get COVID measures working, let alone addressing the highly complex issues of post-transition Brexit. I particularly think of our scientists, who’ve been significantly supported by EU grants for years. They haven’t been able to apply for new grants. Mass sacking of researchers is in prospect.

          yeah, sure, we don’t need the EU. I wouldn’t trust the Johnson lot on replacement of all those highly complex issues though. The effort to replace Galileo has already turned out to be a failure; the Oneweb satellites turned out to be useless for a GPS function. How many times is that going to be repeated in all the other complex issues?

          • JohninMK

            I am not sure that the UK is actually asking for anywhere like full single market participation. The EU is totally within its rights to say ‘all or nothing’. But they have made trade agreements with other countries and I thought at one point that a ‘Canada’ style agreement would suffice but that was not on the table for the UK. But I suspect that underlying all this is that a significant number of Brexit voters also voted in the original vote, when they thought it was a Common Market they were signing up for not an embryo federal state, and voted to correct that.

            We did indeed gain enormously from being in the EU but we paid our fair share for that gain. It also cost us a lot in terms of our national talent and expertise pool as we came to rely on expertise in Europe and you are spot on in saying that it will take years to get it back. As indeed was your comment on scientific researchers who may find that they have to retrain in the uncertain financial world we are now in.

            As to GPS I don’t understand why we need our own system, Oneweb looks like one of those panic decisions that are subsequently regretted and yes, it is odds on similar stupid decisions will be taken.

            Part of the problem is that most of the Government has only been in post a few months, had no training for the role or relevant past experience. Put them under stress and they have to rely more than usual on their full time, career experts. The last 6 months would have happened much the way it has regardless of which party was in power as they would both have been in the same noat. It is those often anonymous advisors, many paid much more than the politicians they advise, that should bear a lot of both the blame and quodos of the recent events.

            Whilst still a strong believer in Brexit I have no illusions that the next year, where we face the exit, continuing Covid, probable backwash from the US elections, a financial crisis and a World recession all at the same time, is going to be very difficult, to put it mildly.

          • laguerre

            A Canada-style agreement is still on the table, as far as I know, only the Brexiters don’t want it, if I understand correctly. OK abolition of tarifs at Dover, but still hours of wait for papers to be processed. With 10,000 trucks a day passing Dover, there’s going to be a big mess, even without paying tarifs. And then again Canada doesn’t deal with financial services. Britain is out without an agreement.

            It isn’t that the EU is demanding “all or nothing”, it is just that simplistic Brexit Britain hasn’t understood the dimensions of the problem.

          • Blissex

            «The EU is totally within its rights to say ‘all or nothing’. But they have made trade agreements with other countries and I thought at one point that a ‘Canada’ style agreement would suffice but that was not on the table for the UK.»

            There is the famous Barnier slide, where he described all the types of deals offered to the Conservative government, and how the Conservatives rejected nearly all of them:


            «But I suspect that underlying all this is that a significant number of Brexit voters also voted in the original vote, when they thought it was a Common Market they were signing up for not an embryo federal state, and voted to correct that.»

            The membership discussions and 1975 referendum made it *really* clear that “ever closer union of the peoples of Europe” (of the peoples, not the states) was the main goal. In 1975 there was a fresh memory of England’s WW2 defeat first by the Axis and then by the USA, and of the consequent loss of the Empire.

            Subsequently voters had the opportunity to throw out of office all the governments (Thatcher, Major, Blair) that signed and then enacted in Parliament all the deepening and enlargement treaties, and they did not. In 2016 the critical factor was that in addition to the principled brexiters and delusional nostalgic brexiters, there was a significant component of anti-neoliberal anti-globalist protest voters who shifted the result in favour of “Leave”. They will have ample time to repent, as brexit will mean more neoliberalism, more globalism.

        • Mighty Drunken

          “but being a small independent country can be an advantage over being a part of a huge, unwieldy entity”

          That sounds good but is it true? What does the UK want to do it could not do while in the EU? You give an example with trade deals. Trade deals with smaller countries are likely to be quicker. However trade deals are more important for smaller countries. They have a smaller domestic market so have to rely on exports. Their economy is going to lack some important materials, the larger the country the less they are likely to lack.
          The risks are equal if not higher for smaller countries, for the larger country the smaller markets of the small country are not as important so big countries have the advantage. They can take it or leave it more easily.

    • Johny Conspiranoid

      “. Either the EU accepts a Trade Deal much more in our favour or it is going to go down as the bad guy,”

      “Go down as the bad guy”, in whose opinion?

  • Peter Hall

    The corrupt gather in cliques.
    The ERG claim that Johnson promised them he would breach the agreement.
    That is why they voted for it.

    • Ken Kenn

      In my opinion the problem with this breaking of International law is that this is pre – Third Country Status that will apply on January the 1st 2021.

      What that infers to me is that the UK is trying to scare the EU into accepting ( or acquiescing on specific parts of the original WA ) changes to the Treaty before the 1st of January 2021.

      Meaning that, despite Johnson’s blagging the hint is that the UK would ideally like a deal but if the EU doesn’t back off then a No Deal occurs by default.

      Otherwise, it begs the question as to why the UK government hasn’t walked away from any deal already?

      Third country status would suggest that the UK would have the same status as a country which was never in the EU in the first place.

      The UK is leaving the EU – it is not the other way round.

      If you don’t want the EU exit door to hit you on the backside on the way out that requires a negotiating position not a child like foot stamping because you can’t have an ice cream.

      Pelosi has made it very clear that the US ( with Trump as President or not) a deal with them would not be on the table.

      The UK will become Billy Nomates and its policies on Devolutionary powers will ensure the break up of the UK where Johnson will try to blame the EU for its demise when it is he and his chums who will have caused it.

      As far as Ireland goes there are many British banks which almost own the place and Sinn Fein being on the left will highlight Britain’s grip to the n’th degree in a Border Poll.

      A United Ireland of Ireland is well on the cards and if the UK cut up too rough the Irish may be ‘ assisted ‘ through transfers from the EU.

      I’m pretty sure that the Irish will not join the UK in its mad venture to go it alone in the world.

      Alone in the world it will be.

      Never forget that we are dealing with a Cabinet and party absolute liars here.

      So ‘ Assurances ‘ from liars are not worth the paper they are written on.

      Or signed even.

      Things are going to interesting in the run up to Xmas.

      A lot of people are going to get presents they never wanted.

      • Johny Conspiranoid

        The UK, as a sovereign nation can have a completely open border with NI from its side and so keep its part of the Good Friday bargain. If the Irish have EU type controls on their side, that’s for them to decide.
        Whats wrong with having different rules at the Irish border than from the the rules at UK international ports, without an Irish Sea internal border?

        • John A

          ‘Whats wrong with having different rules at the Irish border than from the rules at UK international ports, without an Irish Sea internal border?”

          In a word. smuggling.

          The EU needs to be sure that goods entering the EU meet EU standards and regulations. Therefore there are checks at borders. Imagine Britain relaxes its food regulations, accepts US chlorinated chicken and hormone stuffed beef. That can then be shipped to N Ireland, smuggled over the border and shipped from Rep Ireland to rest of EU without checks (other than random).

      • Blissex

        «The UK is leaving the EU – it is not the other way round.»

        For the delusional nostalgic brexiters it is the EUSSR that forced the UK to leave by bullying and humiliating England treating it as a colony with their tyrannical brutality. Here is a quote from a few days before the referendum, by Norman Tebbit on the “Telegraph” (2016/05/16):

        “It is time that the Brexit campaign seized its chance and set the scene for the debate:
        it’s time for the British to get off our knees.
        [….] Our record of successful self government, democracy and the rule of law is far, far superior to that of the other Member states of the EU. Time and time again, we have rescued the people of the continent from the follies of their leaders. They have never rescued us.
        […] Freedom beckons. Will a generation of politicians who have never fought for it betray the many thousands who died for it?”

        On the face of it is quite insane, but until one understands and accept that millions of Alf Garnetts really felt in their heart that “it’s time for the British to get off our knees” and that they regarded themselves as “freedom fighters” against an oppressive colonial overlord one cannot understand brexit and people who vote for B Johnson.

    • Bramble

      This is remarkable in two ways: first that Johnson has hereby actually kept a promise; secondly that the ERG apparently admits they were part of a conspiracy to deceive the EU and the British public. What a nice lot of con men and women we are ruled by.

  • Republicofscotland

    Johnson is a kindred spirit with Trump, Trump has no problems with reneging on deals such as the JCPOA deal, it wouldn’t surprise me one little bit if Johnson talked the idea over with Trump.

  • Rosemary+MacKenzie

    I don’t think Trump talks ideas over with anyone. He just reacts and says the first thing that comes into his head. Ironic isn’t it that these governments are busily planning to break laws or have broken laws and nobody can really call them to account – ie they get away with it, and here is Julian Assange languishing in prison and appearing at a totally setup court without having committed any crime and wasting years of his life because of some country’s stupid ego.

  • N_

    What goods travel through Northern Irish ports such as Larne? Heroin? Club drugs? Weapons?

    One of the centres for the world trade in illegal weapons is Manchester, where Northern Ireland-linked Protestant gangsters have an abiding presence. I don’t know how much trade in weapons there is between Manchester and the ports they control in Northern Ireland.

    The truth is that every drum-basher already hates Boris Johnson because they view him as Catholic. Never mind that he isn’t Catholic. Whenever somebody points that out, they immediately view that person as soft on Rome and the IRA, not necessarily deliberately but at least in the sense that they might open the gates of the besieged city because they have been beguiled. They view Johnson as Catholic because he was baptised Catholic as a child. As far as they are concerned, that’s that. The fact that some of his ancestors were Muslim sends them crazy too. Among drum-bashers, my guess would be that more of them know that Johnson was baptised Catholic than know other things about his past, such as that he was editor of the Spectator and mayor of London. (To wind them up, tell them he once wrote a book and made a film called “The Dream of Rome”.) Welcome to the political culture of Northern Ireland, homeland of bigotry. It is so f*cking ugly to look at that many good people shy away from the task. But to begin to understand what concepts such as “border along the Irish Sea” and “wedge between NI and GB” connote, sorry but one has to focus on drum-bashing Protestant bigotry and its key preoccupations.

    If the Republic of Ireland had an NHS style health service, I suspect there would be 65%+ support in the North for reunification.

    • Dawg


      You inform us that the “drum-basher” proddies hate Boris Johnson because he’s a cafflick. You’d have some trouble supporting both clauses of that claim.

      How do you explain this report about him getting a rapturous reception at the DUP conference in 2018:

      Notice the photos of Bojo proselytising in front of the DUP logo and being embraced by Arlene Foster. That’s an odd way to express their hatred of him. Or maybe you’ve got something wrong.

      Boris isn’t RC anyway, nor does he live or preach like a God-botherer of anykind.

      With all that harsh one-sided condemnation of “drum-bashers” and their trade in drugs and weapons, N_, I reckon there’s a thing or two you could teach people about bigotry.

  • Roderick Russell

    The intent of both parties in the Brexit negotiations should have been to reach a mutual “win win” agreement. However it was clear, at least to me, that from the outset that the EU was negotiating in bad faith with the real intent of punishing the UK for having the temerity to want to leave the EU. Given the EUs bad faith negotiations it is not surprising that the UK Government has finally had the guts to look after its own interests.

    Personally, my own preference would have been to stay in the EU. But given the disgusting assault on Britain by the EU in these negotiations staying on is not possible.

    As for the Rule of Law: Piffle! Rule by lawyers more like. As your excellent journalism shows I doubt that Mr. Assange feels that he is the beneficiary of Rule of Law. International law follows the money interest and the big power battalions. Where it doesn’t—they just ignore it.

    • Ian

      Good imaginative powers. The EU has been clear and transparent, and made many offers. The UK has refused to come clean with what it wants, even still, and has been abusive and sulking. And now, just plain stupid and telling whopping lies. What an utter shambles, This could have been settled two years ago at least, and preserved the UK economy, and many of the benefits of being in the EU. Instead we are heading for the giant clusterfuck of all time, the only explanation is that this meretricious, incompetent, malicious fuckwits are going to drive us over a cliff and blame the EU. This is just the start of it.

    • Goose

      “They’re being beastly to us in negotiations” is the current cry of the Brexiter.

      They want and can’t understand why they can’t have, a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) relationship like Canada’s, in fact they want Canada ++, with the plus being financial services included in the tariff-free area. But proximity matters, especially when talking about zero-quota, zero-tariff EU market access.

      The EU negotiators say this is out of the question for a country on the EU doorstep paying no membership fee (as a recently departed club member). You can fully understand the EU’s stance, it would undermine the EU cohesion to give such an incredible deal to the UK, which country would leave next? Canada exports roughly 7.9% of its exports to the EU , the UK some ~45% if you include financial services.

    • laguerre

      “Punishing” Britain is standard Brexiter cr*p. Access to the single market (+ all the other agreements, like Galileo, crime databases, etc) involves significant costs, both financial and organisational. If the Brexit cabal in power don’t want to do it, fine, but they’re out on 31/12.

  • Tatyana

    Well, I waited for the chance, when Mr. Murray recklessly turns the defenseless soft part of himself within my reach, so that I can sink my teeth into it 🙂 🙂
    So, you seem to have a lot of empathy for the Chagossians, Mr. Murray, but what about South Ossetia, Mr. Murray?
    I’ve bookmarked the 2008 report of the international commission. Apparently you haven’t seen it if you mention Ossetia as part of Georgia

    • Ian

      That’s the trouble with using whataboutery as one of your arguments. Other people have different whataboutery too.

      • Tatyana

        well, actually, whataboutery is a good way to define the line where the great universal humanistic idea ends and conjuncturism begins

        • Ian

          I don’t know what conjuncturism is, but I wasn’t having a go at you, but at Craig’s use of the Chagos argument (which I agree with him on) as a prop in his separate argument about the current bill. Which in turn provokes your merited argument. And so it goes on.

          • Tatyana

            I’m not playing games, RoS. What is your point on the South Ossetia? Their population is less than even my native tiny rural town. No coast. No resources. 53 thousand people. Do you think they could make a significant part of the Russian Federation? Or, why would Russia be so keen on ‘having’ the ossetians?

          • Republicofscotland

            Andorra has a population of 77,000 people, Liechtenstein has a population of around 38,000, San Mario has a population of around 34,000 people. Some are land locked, and have small land masses, yet they appear viable, why not South Ossetia as well.

          • Tatyana

            Actually that was my question to Mr. Murray. He says of Ossetia as of the part of Georgia. He doesn’t even call them ‘the ossetians’.

      • Johny Conspiranoid

        I think whataboutery is a good thing. It means pointing out people’s double standards and humbug. Those things matter when deciding whom to support or trust.

        • Vimto Bingo

          It’s one of the defining positions of my wife in any argument. “Claire, I would like to discuss your driving as it’s beginning to make me scared”.

          “Whatabout you learn to drive”.

          It’s not a negotiation tactic.

          • Blissex

            «”your driving as it’s beginning to make me scared”.
            “Whatabout you learn to drive”»

            That is indeed invalid whataboutery:

            * Whether you drive or not is irrelevant to whether her driving his bad.

            * Anyhow, even if it were relevant, as in you also could drive and would drive badly, her driving being bad is a wrong that cannot be justified by someone else also doing it badly. Whataboutery cannot excuse a wrong.

            Unless the issue were what is bad driving: if that is to be decided on a statistical basis, then looking at other people’s driving standards is valid whataboutery. But your wife is not making the argument that her driving is good.

          • Tatyana

            Me too is the only driver and I can confirm that the sense of the Claire’s answer is quite different sort of whataboutery 🙂
            Nothing more annoying than a man in the passenger seat making comments on my driving manner.

            If he wore his glasses he’d recognised traffic lights and signs faster, perhaps that would save me effort explaining my maneuvers. If he learned to look into mirrors before giving me his precious advice to change the line, he’d be less scared of the cars ‘unsuspectedly jumping onto the road out of nowhere’. Indeed he is scared! 🙂
            Sorry, it’s personal and emotional. But really, imagining you work on whatever is your field of expertise, and your dilettante wife comments on your skills. It’s annoying.

            Bad example.
            Right analogy would be like : Chagossians are entitled to get ‘driver’s licence’ as well as Ossetians, Crimeans, Scots etc. When they all get their own governments, then we can discuss whose ‘driving manner’ is better. And, there’s no shame to sit in the passenger seat, if you feel it’s better for you at the moment. Just make sure you’re free to leave the car any time.

        • Blissex

          «whataboutery is a good thing. It means pointing out people’s double standards and humbug.»

          But there are two types of whataboutery: that used to distract, and used to point out double standards and humbug.

          The difference is when the standard of judgement is part of the issue, then whataboutery is perfectly relevant. It is not when it is used to argued that “two wrongs make a right”, as in “since you killed A, you cannot say it is wrong for me to kill B”.

          For example to point out that NATO invaded and bombed Yugoslavia for a long time to support the splitting away of Kosovo when Ossetia (or Abkahzia or Crimea) are mentioned is perfectly legitimate, because the issue here is which rule of international law applies, and if “self determination” applies to Kosovo, then it applies to Catalunya, Scotland, Ossetia, Abkhazia.

    • laguerre

      Dear Tatyana

      I wasn’t quite sure whether you thought that the Russians in South Ossetia were colonists, and the territory should be returned to Georgia, or that the majority population being Russian, the territory should remain Russian. That the Russians are colonists is clear, I think. Unfortunately, colonists these days are on a losing game. It’s mainly the native regime that wins. When I was in Kazakhstan in 1993 and after, there were many discussions of this type. Kazakhs being only 40% of the population, would they make it as a Central Asian country? but they have. Some of the Russians I met had been born in Xinjiang, during the extension of Russian settlement there. But they’d been forced to evacuate, when Chinese power came back

      • Tatyana

        Laguerre, I believe that there are comparatively small ethnic groups who nevertheless realize their individuality. I believe that at some points in history, these peoples may find it more attractive, benefittable and preserving their identity is to join a union, federation or empire (depending on geography and historical situation), rather than becoming another part of a unitary state like Ukraine, Georgia or Kazakhstan, to dissolve, to assimilate, and to finally forget their identity.
        For some reasons some small ethnicities may find it difficult to build a sovereign state, yet. There are some benefits outside of unitarian states, and also there are some benefits in empires. I believe it may be mostly for economics reasons.

        • Tatyana

          To illustrate my point, this year schools in the Ukraine started with no russian language. How do you like it? This is another update to the painful problem of the Crimea. This is the fate that would await the Crimeans if they did not act decisively in 2014. Add it to the fresh water problem, to understand how the new ukrainian government treat the russians. Not to forget Donbass and the fake Minsk agreement, never implemented.
          Btw, how do you like Nursultan instead of Astana?

        • laguerre

          I don’t feel strongly either way, but I noted that colonist regimes don’t succeed unless they’ve already slaughtered throughout the territory the native population, like in the US or Australia. That’s not so in Ossetia.

          Whether one likes or not the Kazakh regime, they’ve had a remarkable come-back, from a 40% minority. Who cares whether the capital isolated in the steppe is called Nursultan or Astana?

          • Tatyana

            The nothern Kazakhstan does pretty well, while the southern part still somwhere in the middle of the proto-feudal stage. Ask them the meaning of the word ‘kelinka’
            I wonder if they would change the name of the city every time they have a new leader?

          • laguerre


            “Ask them the meaning of the word ‘kelinka’”

            Perhaps you could explain it to us. I quite appreciate that you are Russian, and have sympathy for the Russian colonists, but they are nevertheless colonists. Russia had a colonial experience, much like the British empire. The main difference was that the countries Russia conquered had land borders with Russia, whereas for Britain it was overseas. The Soviet Union abolishing the notion of colonialism was of no significance. Surprisingly for me, when the Soviet Union broke up, those colonial territories were liberated. Newly independent former colonial states are likely to go their own way, never mind whether you call them ‘proto-feudal’. Colonists from the homeland are unlikely to retain their former superior rights, much like the British in Malaya etc. Slowly forced out. I worked in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in the 1990s and 2000s, and it was like that.

            In fact the Central Asian regimes are not the descendants of the communist/stalinist dictatorships they seem to be, but rather of the preceding despotic Central Asian Khans, descended from the traditions of the Mongols. It’ll take them time to get over it.

            To return to the original question, are the South Ossetians really in a different category?

          • Tatyana

            Dear Laguerre, I don’t feel I’m an expert on russian colonialism, I only know that every republic in the Soviet Union was free to leave. They left. Doesn’t look like colonialism to me, but I really don’t mind calling it colonialism. Let it be.
            Ossetia, there is an ethnicity and it’s territory is geographically divided into Nothern and Southern Ossetias. Southern Ossetia was refused autonomy by Stalin, and was assigned to Georgia. Perhaps because he was Georgian? Perhaps, it was like Ukrainian Khruchev assigning the Crimea to the Ukraine?
            Anyway, when Ussr dissolved, the Ossetians wished to be an independent republic, but Georgia has objections, they still consider it Georgian terrirory. Like the Ukraine considers the Crimea theirs territory.
            Nothern Ossetia is in Russia.

            Kelinka is the youngest daughter-in-law, a slave for every other member of the family. I don’t care if central asian states wish to go their own way, since it is not my way. If they feel returning back to national traditions is right modus vivendi for them, then I don’t want to have anything in common with such society. Some national traditions are quite disgusting for modern people. Honestly, many in Russia believe it was very good thing to break up with those republics. Perhaps Ussr profiteered somehow on those, I’m not sure, but I see it is central asia ex-ussr people who are gast-arbeiters in my country today, not vice versa.

    • Antonym

      Yes Tatiana, you are right: Craig has some Whitehall build-in double standards. “Palestine” is another of his hobby horses, while neglecting plenty of other warped areas on the globe. Never a word on Baluchistan, Xinjiang, Kurdistan etc.

      [ Mod: It’s not clear what you’re referring to. Nothing from either you or Tatyana has been deleted recently. ]

  • M.J.

    I understand that Boris may have been baptised as a Catholic, but he was confirmed as an Anglican as a teenager, and so is not a Catholic now.
    Anyway, religion apart, I hope that Conservatives will heed Sir John Major and Tony Blair’s caution and vote against giving him the ability to break the law and Britain’s international reputation with it.

    • Stonky

      Ah, Tony Blair. World-leading authority on not breaking international law and not soiling Britian’s international reputation…

      • M.J.

        I would prefer Tony Blair to Boris Johnson any day. But we’re stuck with Boris because the electorate who voted for Brexit haven’t changed their minds, because the consequences haven’t yet hit us in full. Come the end of the year, it looks as though we will crash out of the EU without a deal, and face delays, shortages and be less well off. AND our reputation for honouring our word will be toast. Why would the Japanese or the Australians be interested in signing any trade agreement with us when they knew that we would break it when it suited us, just as we are planning to do with the EU? Would they be convinced by ‘Well, we really, really needed to do it that time’?
        The bill has passed its first hurdle with a majority of 77. It will take another 39 rebellions for the bill to fall, which is by no means certain.

  • giyane

    I seem to remember at the time of ther withdrawal agreement the MSM were spinning that Merkel was fed up with Barnier , so Barnier stuck his telescope onto his blind eye and pretended not to notice Boris’s whoppers.
    The MSM said that the EU was so scared of a No Deal outcome that it was time to bend the rules.

    Apart from lying, I haven’t noticed Boris Johnson doing anything so far this year, and his promise of rapidly scooping up new trade deals after Brexit is like the pooper scooper who turns the glove inside out and pops it in the bin. Does anybody really care if Albion is still perfidious? It is astonishing that MPs can manufacture enough self-righteous indignation to pretend to care about Britain’s reputation enough to attend the Brownie convention tomorrow in Parliament.

    But maybe months of Lockdown have confined them to their houses for so long that any excuse is better than staying at home.

  • Dungroanin

    I have said since 2016 that plan A was always a hard BrexShit onto WTO rules. That is what Major signed us upto in 94 and he got his way. That is why Blair and Brown allowed The GFC to result in Austerity that would set up the populace into blaming the EU for their suffering. They too have wondered off to the high table!

    That is what Cameron threatened the EU with and got the referendum wins, and his pay off. That is why May and Davis played with navel picking for two years to make sure that the clock ran down so the EU would be FORCED to declare the no deal at the end of that period. Unfortunately Merkel played a blinder with her colleagues in the corridor as May savoured her moment of triumph and ‘Seat at the Table’ that she thought was going to happen! No the EU granted an extension! She had to go. So Bozo got his turn to earn the seat. That is why Starmer will approve it!

    The ancient City are playing their final cards – to escape a level playing field and destroy the EU – but whilst Mutti is there, their Singapore on Thames will go the way of the sunken Atlantis.

  • Alberto

    “The UK state is of course currently trying to silence one small bubble of dissent by imprisoning me, so you will not have access to another minor but informed view of world events for you to consider. “

    Sorry Craig, with respect is it not a little bit arrogant to consider yourself the only minor but informed view or the only small bubble of dissent? Are you ” the only one”? Having said that, I value your dissent with these highly incompetent and corrupt tories. Stay safe

    • pretzelattack

      sorry alberto, smearing craig by deliberately misreading what he wrote is both dishonest and, if you think nobody sees through it, arrogant.

      • james

        ditto pretzelattacks comment… the whole system is very corrupt and anyone who has the temerity to point it out, especially a person like craig murray via this widely read blog, is asking for it from the same corrupt gang of hoodlums… and you think craig is arrogant?? that is being deeply out of touch with what is happening here..

    • M.J,

      Craig uses the word “another” which implies that he is not the only one, which makes the accusation that he is claiming to the “only” one illogical. 🙂

  • Shatnersrug

    They are on an ideological mission. They intend on reforming the state. Everything about Cummings reeks of fascism, his disregard for elected representatives, his belief that lying is fine to get what you want.

    He and Johnson problem deeply believe that the old system needs smashing down. They believe in what they’re doing as much as you believe in taking Scotland out of the UK. And you rightly don’t care how many British laws you might break to achieve it. Well that’s what they believe.

    But mark my words Cummings is obsessed with AI Military tech, that means warrior robots, he believes that the UK should be on the vanguard of it. Judging by the fact that he has acted like a classic capitalist fascist one can only presume he means to build some kind of crazy tech based army.

    I have not a clue how he plans on doing it but I do know he has the support of Bannon and those two vampires from the Tax Payers alliance. These people are fascist in the classical sense – and seeing as, after 10 years of classical economics we now have a tortured hopelessly divided country with the fascists in charge then the next step is surely an authoritarian militarised state.

    I would not be surprised if he wants to try his AI weapons tech on the Scottish indie movement

    Dark times are upon us folks.

    • Brianfujisan

      Shatnersrug –

      ” in taking Scotland out of the UK. And you rightly don’t care how many British laws you might break to achieve it. “

      The people of Scotland won’t be breaking Any British laws.. We have the sovereign right to determine the form of government best suited to our needs. This right is well established; it was first set out in the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 and was most recently endorsed by Parliament in the Commons in a debate in July 2018—

      And I believe it’s International Law that matters.. Not British law.

    • Mighty Drunken

      I think you are right Shatnersrug. Cummings appears to be one of the people who think they are far far more intelligent that they actually are. He appears to latch on the certain areas in tech/maths and thinks it will answer all our problems. A dangerous idealist without a clue.

      So he will be totally obsessed with machine learning because it is the current big thing and has lots of potential. A more realistic person will see that it has great promise but it takes a lot of work and time to iron out the problems and make useful things.

      I guess Cummings has convinced Johnson of his cleverness.

  • CasualObserver

    Pretty obvious there was not going to be an agreement on trade by the end of the year ? It was a tall order even before Covid intervened. So its probably the case that HMG need to set the stage whereby the EU can be painted as the cause when the full implications of being on WTO rules hit home. Clearly some act that is byzantine enough to pass over the heads of the majority of the Britain Reborn crowd is just the ticket when it comes to trying to force the EU into demonstrating overt non compliance in recognising their own ‘Best Interests’.

    Its likely the case that having had 4 years to prepare, and for the first time in history being sort of united, the Europeans have had more than enough time to get their ducks in a row to ensure that they will come out on top whatever the eventuality. So we can look forward to some entertainment as our ‘Managers’ scrabble to allocate blame when Brexit becomes a concrete reality. 🙂

  • Glynis Nicholson

    This government is an enemy of the state & certainly NOT working for the good of it’s citizens. And the silence of the media, only proves to me, that they too are complicit also!

  • Gordon

    The British government being in bad faith with the EU makes a pleasant change from them being in bad faith with the British people and balances, somewhat, the almost continuous bad faith that Brussels has exhibited towards Britain since before we even joined it.

  • laguerre

    I was entertained by a comment by a Russian-speaking but British person in the Graun a couple of days ago who noted that the text of the Internal Markets bill (apart from the illegality bit) was based on the text of Putin’s constitutional revision law of earlier this year. Indeed he called it simple plagiarism. I am not qualified to judge for myself, not speaking Russian, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised. I’m sure Cummings is maintaining his contacts, and Putin’s reforms would appeal to him, although the British media were up in arms about their anti-democratic nature. A subject to pursue, I think.

    • giyane


      Maybe both have been plagiarised from the same original.Tory politics is absolutely uninteresting. Just layers on layers of plagiarism of the original idea that if you do nothing , somebody else who is motivated by money will do it for you. If the economy collapses, queues for foreign investors will be clamouring for opportunities to buy up Britain. If the electorate turns against us, just increase the loading in the algorithms to get us back in.
      Meanwhile Lockdown is for wimps. I’m off grouse shooting. After all it is Victorian laissez faire that really turns a Tory on.

    • Jay

      I can certainly believe that a Guardian reader would post something like that and that other Guardian readers would believe it.

      • laguerre

        Ah yes, a faithful reader of the Heil or Torygraph would say that, wouldn’t he/she, failing to address the question at issue.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    The Marquis of Queensbury rules are fine as long as neither fighter punches the other one in the goolies…

    Not too clear to me that either side respects the traditional rules of boxing in this case….

    • Ken Kenn

      As a remainer ( and I don’t think the EU is a Nirvana ) I was quite happy with Labour’s initial position of a very soft Andrex style lovely Emma Thompson – we can still be good friends divorce.

      Corbyn was accused of ‘ sitting on the fence yet it was not a fence that he made – it was a construction of others with malign intentions.

      The question for myself was : would you rather have a Corbyn led Labour government with its faults ( all governments have faults) or would you rather go full tilt for a second referendum in order to Remain?

      That was always a gamble.

      The ‘ clever ‘ people at the Guardian and the BBC and other medias thought they could chivvy the unwashed masses into changing their minds.

      Only one problem with that- the unwashed Red Wallers don’t read the Guardian/ Observer and never will ( I don’t blame them ) and they genuinely have been left behind over 40 years plus of Thatcherite Neo Liberalist economics.

      The thing appears to be though is that, it was not the ‘ Red Wall’ Northerners that dealt the killer blow but the South eastern and Southern Tories that paid homage to their clan and voted for the party in loyalty.

      Surrey and its environs does not strike me as a place that could claim to have been ‘ Left behind ‘ over the years.

      But this appears to be what happened in December 2020.

      Simply put : The Tory vote in the South was rock solid.

      The Red Wall only assisted in the 80 majority and was not a majority factor.

      And of course Farage and his Brexit Party stood or didn’t stand in Tory marginals.

      My view entirely:

      “If the Republic of Ireland had an NHS style health service, I suspect there would be 65%+ support in the North for reunification.”

      There is no way that Sinn Fein can’t make on this chaos both sides of the Border.

      Now Corbyn is limited, Sinn Fein are the most progressive party in the UK and the island of Ireland as a whole.

      • Blissex

        «would you rather have a Corbyn led Labour government with its faults ( all governments have faults) or would you rather go full tilt for a second referendum in order to Remain?»

        That was never the question for a large part of the “2nd ref” people like Starmer: getting rid of Corbyn was the absolute priority, and the relationship with the EU did not matter as much to them, because a future government could always fix the latter to the satisfaction of the business/finance lobbies by getting into the EEA/EFTA. While a taste of social democracy after 40 years of thatcherism was absolutely to be avoided, to prevent the voters from liking it. Even worse, Corbyn was on the side of renters, and the whole UK elites makes enormous profits from high housing cost inflation, and any threat to it is a threat to them.

        Look at Starmer himself: after pushing for the catastrophic “2nd ref” policy, and losing dozens of seats in the 2019 elections, and almost only in “Leave” areas, while gaining only a couple of seats in “Remain” areas, he became leader, and has never again mentioned brexit, and he is attacking the government only for doing it incompetently, because his goal (and that of the Mandelson Tendency) is to get the votes of brexiter tory voters, so his message is that he would do it more competently. The anti-brexit campaign disappeared completely after Corbyn resigned, even if in December 2019 the “Remain” parties (Labour, SNP, LibDems) got a lot more votes than the “Leave” parties (Conservatives, DUP, UKIP). It was all just a ruse to get rid of Corbyn.

        «not the ‘ Red Wall’ Northerners that dealt the killer blow but the South eastern and Southern Tories that paid homage to their clan and voted for the party in loyalty.»

        The southern tories have no loyalty to the Conservatives, and utmost loyalty to high housing cost inflation: after the mid 1990s house inflation crash millions of them stopped voting Conservative for nearly 15 years, and went back to voting Conservatives, and not that much, after New Labour crashed housing cost inflation in the late 2000s, and only gave the Conservatives a majority after 5 years of high housing cost inflation, in 2015.

        The vote of many southern tories is not because of tribal loyalty, but transactional: they will vote for whoever gives them £30-40,000 a year of tax-free, no-work property profits per year, like in the past 40 years.

  • Sandra

    An example of the ends justifying the means?
    According to Nigel Farage, before a Commons vote on the revised WA, Boris Johnson told the ERG one thing and some of the Tory rebels another about what would happen if an FTA hadn’t been agreed by the end of the transition period.
    Apparently, ERG members were told that the transition period wouldn’t be extended and the UK would leave with no-deal but the Tory rebels who had lost the whip were told that the transition period would be extended and no-deal wouldn’t be allowed to happen.
    From Brexit Party rally, 18 October 2019 – about 1:22:00mins in to 1:23:05

    • N_

      ERGers in the current cabinet: Michael Gove, Therese Coffey, Brandon Lewis.
      Attends cabinet but not a member: Jacob Rees-Mogg.
      Even with Rees-Mogg that’s fewer than under May.

      What religious denomination (if any) is Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis?

      I’ve said it before, but it’s remarkable that Rees-Mogg, the guy responsible for getting government bills through the House of Commons, isn’t in the cabinet. Was he blackballed? Since he’s an attender but not a member, that must surely mean there are circumstances in which he wouldn’t get access to the same papers as the actual members. Did he fail vetting after somebody took a look at the links between Somerset Capital Management and one or more foreign powers?

      • Sandra

        Leaders of both Houses are usually in Cabinet – so it’s odd. Also, JRM really consistently championed Boris Johnson for the Party leadership.

  • N_

    Telling phrasing from the Guardian today: the British government plans to “bypass” international law.

    Is it OK if I bypass the Theft Act and rob a bank? I promise to do it “in a specific and limited way”.

  • Marita Nilsen

    Dear Mr Murray,

    As much as I and my husband admire your work and would love nothing more than to support both you and Mr Assange with your defence and legal costs, we hardly hang in there with our financial obligations. This seems to be the new normal in this world for many.

    All I can offer, and will do in any case, is my prayer.

    Marita Nilsen

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