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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  • AlexT

    I am not disagreeing with your remarks but do you really think that the other party is playing it nice ?
    Quite obviously the EU position is to make the process as painful as possible, at the risk of showing that exiting the union is actually a viable option.

    • craig Post author

      The EU is entitled to protect its interests in negotiation just as the UK is doing the same. But signing agreements with the express intention of breaking them is not the same as playing hardball in negotiation.

      • AlexT

        Again agreed. Asking for a legal opinion about a “worst case outcome” or even a “dirty way out” seem fairly SOP. Proving beyond reasonable doubt that they had was not intent to actually implement the deal will be a tall order…

        • craig Post author

          It’s not SOP at all. If there are forseeable circumstances in which you believe the treaty should not apply, then you write them into the treaty as an agreed provision. It is absolutely not normal and not OK to enter a treaty with a plan to get out of it in bad faith.

          • George

            Well, it was the EU which insisted on the “two stage” way of negotiating, which was also an act of extremely bad faith. faith. Tie down the UK on money, citizens’ rights, etc and only then talk about the future trade relationship.on the basis of some non-binding “declaration”.

            Of course, had the UK refused that two way stage of negotiating, people like you would immediately have been up in arms against the UK…

            PS – why is the EU refusing a Norway-type arrangement to deal with fisheries????

          • gyges

            I posted my note without reading the comments, particularly AlexT’s points. @craig is in danger of loosing credibility by not considering the machinations of the EU.

          • Laguerre


            What machinations of the EU? As Craig says, they have a perfect right to negotiate in their own interests. Quite why it is that Brexiters still believe that the EU has a duty to offer us privileges for free totally escapes me.

          • Tim Glover

            @Laguerre exactly! It is laughable the way some people think that the EU have an obligation towards us because we are British. We wanted out, we have to take the consequences. I have no patience with people whining that the EU are not offering us all jam with our tea.

            Johnson is a liar, has been from the cradle, will be to the grave. People who are ok with that are deluding themselves if they think that Jonson is not lying to them too. It is what he does. This comment applies to *everybody* including the press that support him. He will throw *anybody* under a bus without a second thought. To call him a treacherous snake is an insult to snakes.

          • George

            Ben, that may well be Craig’s point but it does not invalidate my points that the way the negotiations were configured was an example of very bad faith (by the EU) and that one of the (admittedly minor) reasons the UK finally accepted that particular mode of negotiation was that it is precisely remainers like Craig who would have complained loudest had the UK just walked away at that stage; in fact, he and his ilk would probably have claimed that the UK was acting illegally .

            Furthermore, Craig is misrepresenting – by excessive, MSM-like generalisation and lack of precision – exactly what it is that the UK is attempting to achieve with its proposed legislation. He should give us details of the circumstances in which the proposed legislation would be used….but probably will decline to do so.

          • Robert+Dyson

            I agree with Tim Glover. Once the UK gov decided to leave EU membership, the UK became a competitor. Whatever the real motives of the ERG the gov said it could do better outside the EU and so became a competitor. The sequence of negotiations was gong to be the David Davis row of the summer. That was a one day bit of nothingness and the UK accepted the WA first plan. Whatever the machinations of the EU they have been clear and published from day one. The Irish question was always a big human problem to be ignored as much as possible by the UK side. The Irish people north & south have been treated with contempt by the UK. I give credit to the EU27 for solidarity, something the UK gov lacks with its own regions. Apart from the DUP when has the UK gov discussed how to go with the Scots, Welsh or other representatives in NI?

          • OnlyHalfALooney

            George: You don’t seem to understand that the EU countries have no obligation to “play it nice” with the UK. The EU is entitled to defend the interests of its member countries. Just as the UK is entitled to defend its interests. The fact is that the UK and EU are not equal partners. The EU is many times larger than the UK and holds almost all the negotiating cards. This is hard reality.

            Look you’re dealing with people with what I call the “German banker” mentality. The EU will keep to its word and act in good faith. But you’re dealing with serious negotiators who aren’t there to “split the cake”, they’re there to get as much of the cake they can at the best possible conditions they can. This is hard business.

            What people of the “German banker” mentality can’t stand is shenanigans, outright lying and negotiating in bad faith, or what a German businessman I dealt with called “the bazaar bullshit”.

            And that’s a good description of what Johnson, Cummings, et al, are doing: “bazaar bullshit”.

          • Prasad

            George, are you saying that the English government were too stupid to know what they were signing?
            Sounds a bit like the ‘we were rushed argument’. It wouldn’t work with an 11 year old’s homework assignment so not sure it works on the world stage.
            I have been shouting at the TV for years. don’t trust the ****** liars’ and if what you are saying is right, then they (the EU) heard me. Well done them.
            They knew they were negotiating with liars, charlatans and crooks.

          • Ben McDonnell

            “one of the (admittedly minor) reasons the UK finally accepted that particular mode of negotiation was that it is precisely remainers like Craig who would have complained loudest”
            So you blame a bad deal on remainers? I think you are giving them too much power and should think about that.

          • Bayard

            “one of the (admittedly minor) reasons the UK finally accepted that particular mode of negotiation was that it is precisely remainers like Craig who would have complained loudest”

            Since HMG has never given the slightest sign of caring a toss about anyone’s complaints, this reason is minor to the point of being non-existent. The only real reason that the UK “finally accepted that particular mode of negotiation” was that it was in a hurry; the government had an election to win. That was nothing to do with the EU.

          • Blissex

            «the “two stage” way of negotiating, which was also an act of extremely bad faith. faith. Tie down the UK on money, citizens’ rights, etc and only then talk about the future trade relationship.»

            The institutions of the EU are only empowered by TEU article 50 to negotiate an exit treaty with a member, that article givers them no power to negotiate a trade treaty with a member; only TFEU article 218 empowers the EU institutions to negotiate trade treaties on behalf of members, and only with countries that are not members, that is exiting countries are excluded. TEU article 50 and TFEU article 128 are therefore mutually esclusive.

            So it would have been a violation of the EU treaties to negotiate a trade treaty with the UK before exit.
            To demand for the EU institutions to violate the EU treaties to negotiate both an exit and trade treaty at the same time would be gross bad faith.

    • Ian Robert Stevenson

      I hold to the view the big donors behind the Conservative party don’t object to Cummings. If they did, he’d be gone within the week.

    • EoH

      I don’t think Cummings needs anything on Johnson, although he probably has what he needs and then some. He’s there because he is to the right of Genghis Khan, does all the work, sends down uncooperative bureaucrats, and allows Boris to swan off. The party’s patrons back Cummings: Boris is along for the ride.

      As for Johnson’s intent to break the treaty, I think that’s right. The UK has amply demonstrated its lack of good faith towards the EU and its own people throughout the Brexit process. Its expectations have been unreasonable, its preparation for Brexit have been non-existent, its “Fog in Channel, Continent Cut Off” attitude has been unshakeable. Those leading the charge for Brexit have aimed for the hardest of hard Brexits. They are about to get it.

      Their arguments for “autonomy” and economic “resurgence” could have been borrowed from the Chicago Boys’ claims about Pinochet’s Chile, with Brexit substituting for the guns, without which people would not accept the massive changes in store for them. The planned withdrawal from the ECHR illustrates that autonomy for Johnson and his patrons – and the ability to reap profits – means not being accountable, in law or in fact.

    • Kim Sanders-Fisher

      Cummings “knows where all the bodies are buried” or rather he knows the strategic details of exactly how the industrial scale fraud was implemented to steal our postal votes for a fake ‘landslide victory’ in the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. He also knew how to manipulate the ‘persuadables’ using weapons grade PsyOps and how to use propaganda to convince us that result was legitimate using the compliant BBC and Mainstream Media. The App failed, but Cummings still has a veracious appetite for our personal data, that will not be satiated until Operation Moonshot plunders that personal data goldmine ready for sale to the US Healthcare conglomerates.

      All of the latest catastrophic disaster strategies lead strait back to the unelected ‘Herd Nerd’ Dominic Cummings who controls our lazy narcissistic PM; but Cummings has no genuine allegiance to the Tory Party unless he can maintain his ultimate decision making power by remaining in post. Cummings is the grenade; oust him and you pull the pin! We must challenge and demand an investigation of that vote to remove the Tories from office ASAP; removing Cummings could see him turn traitor out of vindictive malice and bring down this Tory Government. Join us on the Elections Aftermath Discussion Forum and sign this Petition:

      • Bayleaf

        Re. the plundering of personal data, the UK government has quietly used the Coronavirus Act 2020 to authorise the “Retention of Fingerprints and DNA Profiles in the Interests of National Security”. It’s been done via a Statutory Instrument, so bypassing any parliamentary scrutiny.

        I foresee Covid tests becoming mandatory in the not-too-distant future…

    • Blissex

      «Cummings […] got on Johnson?»

      Something that politicians value greatly: a short but impressive record of coming up with the right strategy to win a referendums and an election.

  • nevermind

    If ‘by force mayeur’ it is anything Cummings can wield like a sword to implement more restrictions on the public, he will have another thing coming. To arrest 680 XR activists for daring to stop a propaganda paper coming out on to the shelves, is overkill. This is accompanied with threats of judging them just as organised crime? calling them eco terrorists and akin to organised crime when the real criminals are wheeling and dealing in the City of London, those who gave Boris the orders to leave, as they did not want any publicity for their nefarious off-shore regime.

    Point well made at the right time Craig. Hope the defense will offer a hanky and some recuperating words to the two stressed prosecution team members who tested negative after all…

  • gyges

    Do you see complicity of the EU in this ‘dishonesty’ with Johnson?

    If it was so obvious to all – which it was – why did they go along with it? They were playing the game as much as him.

    At the time, all eyes were on the results of the election … with such a resounding victory, it is clear what was meant by the treaty clause in conjunction with other constitutional issues such as the soveriegnty of Parliament (as affirmed by Miller).

    • Ben McDonnell

      Wow! That’s a stunning argument. So someone lies, and everyone knows, but it is in their interests not to talk about it. Johnson was elected because he was a liar. That kind of statement always leaves me speechless. I leave it to better people than me to draw conclusions.

    • OnlyHalfALooney

      How is this relevant? On 24 January 2020, Johnson solemnly signed the treaty on behalf the UK and the Queen.

      He said: “The signing is a fantastic moment, which finally delivers the result of the 2016 referendum and brings to an end far too many years of argument and division,”

    • Roger Gough

      If Craig was wise to the alleged upcoming “shenanigans” months ago, why weren’t the EU? Don’t they read Craig’s blog? It also displays again an ineptness on their part that’s long been the EU’s trademark.

    • Ben McDonnell

      Roger, That is fair comment, but at this level, it is more a matter of personality, trust, inside knowledge and politics than ineptness. I am sure the EU knew that Johnson might be dishonest, but it wasn’t up to them to point that out to us, just to be prepared for either eventuality. I think they have plans ready to build a hard border in Ireland if they have to.

      • Saf

        The border issue fascinates me. If the UK crashes out without a deal, surely the EU will have three options:
        a) Force the Irish to create a border in order to protect the single market. (Brexiters chuckle)
        b) Push the Irish out of the single market. (Brexiters laugh out lout)
        c) Fudge it. (Brexiters smile knowingly – they can have their cake and eat it, after all)
        Am I missing something??

  • Father O'Blivion

    The highlight from Johnson’s piece in the Telegraph; “… the EU would be willing to use a treaty, negotiated in good faith, to BLOCKADE one part of the UK, to cut it off,”.
    Johnson intends to force through a no deal while stoking the fury of the gammons through the outrageous use of such inflammatory language. Images (in the deranged minds of little Englanders) of U-boats sinking the Cairnryan to Larne ferry, this is very dangerous territory.

      • Marmite

        I agree. Whatever led the decent ones among them (and I am sure there were many) to believe that Britain could be better on its own is beyond me. The EU needed to be challenged and changed organically from within. The alternative was always only Britain and leaving and become a more extreme version of all that is distasteful already about the EU.

  • nevermind

    Tie down the Uk on money’? George. The Uk under a Tory Goverment in 2014, signed up to the Eu’s policy of more openness in financial transactions, to come into force by 2019. The xity of London corp. never liked this new policy and hence the referendum, instigated by an ex City dealer masquerading as an MEP in Strasbourg, Farrage, started to goad the Tory’s, finally after years of running the same slogan, and Douglas Carswell running over to UKIP, Cameron caved in and announced a referendum of the politically uneducated masses. The City did its best to let everyone know what they wanted.
    Why do you think Boris candidateship for leader was supported by some 40 hedgefunds and their managers?

    • George

      @Nevermind : “tie the UK down on money” means the future contributions by the UK to the EU budget. Nothing to do with EU legisation on financial transparency for private operators, which I think is what you’re saying.

    • Geoffrey

      The City likes money and stability it is amoral. It was 90% behind remain. You must have been reading drivel.

  • Paul

    UK expected to get all the plus benefits of a trade deal for free without the pesky regard for EU laws was art of the Brexit fantasy promoted by the tax exiles owners of the UK’s right wing “press”. The UK is a smaller player than the EU and this fact seems to elude the Brits. The EU sets worlds trading standards something the UK will never do.

    • Blissex

      «The UK is a smaller player than the EU and this fact seems to elude the Brits. »

      The brexiters know how weak is a supranational, multilingual state with a failing economy, wide regions of poverty, on the verge of splitting apart, arrogantly thinking they can get on on just by themselves, while being mismanaged by weirdo politicians, and being ruled by a faceless, unaccountable over-centralized bureaucracy. But they think that is the description of the EU.

  • Brian c

    Other countries will also note the acquiescence of Sir 2nd referendum and silence of the people’s vote brigade. And draw conclusions.

    • Bramble

      Keeves is doing his job as a staunch supporter of the status quo. The People’s Vote campaigners have never managed to regroup, at least beyond their own bubbles. Different conclusions will be drawn by different countries. The US, for example, will decide it can do business with Keeves.

  • Laguerre

    I would have thought there are also other aspects of the Internal Markets Bill which would trouble this forum. Notably the changes proposed in the relationship of Westminster to the devolved administrations, which weaken their autonomy. To my mind the first step on Johnson’s road to suppress autonomy and concentrate power in the NASA-style control centre in Westminster, but I am not sufficiently expert to be able to judge.

    • George

      International Treaty arrangements are with the UK government. The UK is not, for instance, Belgium, where the EU-Canada deal was held up by the Walloon regional government after having been ratified by the federal Belgian government. And, by the way, the position in France is similar to that in the UK. So it is not at all a question of weakening anyone’s autonomy.

    • Ian

      Yes, lost in the justifiable outrage over Johnson’s deliberate and deceitful chaos tactics over NI is the massive power grab that is being smuggled into the bill, alongside similarly false claims about the ‘internal’ market in the UK. His animosity towards Sturgeon is well known, largely because she trounces him on a regular basis merely by acting like a rational, responsible and articulate leader. His revenge is to override what powers Holyrood has. It should be noted that alongside their intention to break international laws in favour of ‘UK interests’, that the article includes domestic law. Thus untrammelled power for the executive over any legislature. They are methodically removing all checks and balances, including institutional powers which might be an impediment to them, whether parliamentary, legal or constitutional. Contrary to what Craig says, I have seen several articles pointing out Johnson’s lying strategy, and his intention to derail it. As reported, the ERG were told to vote for the bill, because ‘it can be changed later’. And in February they were actively looking at the legal options. That has all been in the MSM.
      In fact Nesrine Malik has a good article today in the famous bete noir of Craig’s pointing out that Johnson, like Trump, thrives on creating this chaos, and breaking the law is from their point of view, a badge of honour and not contradictory at all. Creating division, through outrageous lies and actions, is absolutely part of the Cummings project – it creates the conditions of maximum opportunity for radical change, as Bannon taught them. Nothing of it is unplanned, or incompetent. It works, especially with a willing, compliant media, easily gamed, and then multiplied by social media at an exponential rate.

      • Ian

        If you want it explained in more detail, I recommend the legal expertise of David Allen Green:

        “The key clauses in the Bill are, in effect, enabling clauses.
        They enable a minister to make regulations, regardless of whether those regulations are in breach of domestic and international law”.
        We are moving to a situation where the government rules by decree.
        No parliamentary scrutiny, no real judicial supervision (and judicial review constantly under threat as well).
        Making the decrees law-proof and court-proof is natural next step”.

        If that phrase ‘enabling clause’ doesn’t alarm you, check your history of the 1930’s and who passed an enabling bill after he was elected, effectively awarding himself absolute power, and bypassing parliament completely.

        • J

          This has been the end game for those in the shadows. We know they are there, we don’t have to pretend about that any more. If anyone doubts at their committent to their own ideology, the sort of cultural engineering they trialled in Chile and Indonesia, they have deliberately killed approaching one hundred thousand elders in the last ten years at the policy level, beginning with the tens of thousands of ‘excess deaths’ from 2011 and 2012 onward. I believe they precisely calibrated their policies with this aim, a proving ground, if you like, which they accelerated during Covid. They’ve been sporadically building private police forces, getting us used to the idea. And as you say, they’re in the last stages of removing any legal impediment to their total, executive control of every aspect of life on these islands.

          I recommend re-viewing Soylent Green with today’s eyes. I encountered it first through the book, Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, but not having seen it in thirty five years, it is shockingly on target for how corporate fascism arrives. I would not be surprised to discover it’s a favourite of Dominic Cummings, and possibly those he represents.

    • craig Post author


      Actually it doesn’t interest me at all. It upsets the devolutionist colonial administrators who lose a bit of personal power. For those interested in Independence, it is a bagatelle.

      • Ian

        So, great, let’s suffer even more, let the Tories provoke more division, with bigger lies and manipulation, while we await the end of the rainbow.

  • DiggerUK

    Over the decades I was on staff side in negotiations with management on many occasions. I learned my craft by following best advice from seasoned, wiser and more experienced union members.

    It was always allowable, to trap the other side with a clause that would give you a future advantage. They would try the same with us. The rule to ensure your side didn’t get caught in such a trap was simple…….never sign anything without reading, rereading and thoroughly understanding what you are signing.
    What was signed was binding with more than just the honour of your word in the here and now, but your reliability in the future to stick with any deal unless properly renegotiated…_

  • Bill Marsh

    I’m afraid that the EU and Tony Blair criticising somebody for breaking International Law is a case of pots and kettles.

  • N_

    @Craig – This cannot be explained by the DUP wanting a combination of circumstances that is logically impossible. That is only one factor. They believe they are standing up Masada-like to Rome (“the EU”), but they are useful cretins. The plan (by those who have the power to make realistic plans, not those idiotic burghers from the 6 Counties) is major food shortages and famine. Wait and see. It won’t be long now. And no-one should think the Calvinists won’t love it. Beyond the surface, there is a close alliance between them and the Malthus-loving Tories, even if they dislike each other. Meanwhile they are shutting down much of what remains of the “No Help for the Sick”, even though the reported number of SARS cases remains minuscule. We’ve had 6 months of fascism now and it has only just started. The “we don’t need no stinking badges” meme is ascendant. By that I mean the rulers’ propagandists have deliberately put it in the ascendant. Government “guidance” suggests people now should not even have sex with anyone they don’t live with. Famine by January. Tory Malthusian ecstasy time.

  • Marmite

    Of course he did. I don’t have much sympathy anymore for anyone who has ever trusted Johnson. The gullible are just too far beyond redemption, and the miserable state of education has ensured that the majority is gullible.

    Meanwhile, I just saw this:

    Crappy Guardian journalism at its best, with NO mention of Corbyn’s plans to democratise internet access. Either the journalist has got his head in the clouds, or intentionally left out that SMALL detail.

    • Ian

      They are reporting what is happening now, and the once again deceit of government promises. What might have happened in a parallel universe, of which there could be many, isn’t really relevant. You may have missed it, but Corbyn is gone, and they didn’t get elected.

    • Anthony

      Like the rest of the Labour right-liberal centre, they are dishonest frauds. On that issue as all others.

      • Ian

        They may well be, but that has nothing to do with the scandal of what BT are charging in rural areas.

  • Fazal Majid

    I hate to break the news, but the UK has always been known to be a bad-faith negotiator, the term “perfidious Albion” wasn’t invented yesterday. Probably has to do with the malleable and capricious nature of Common Law. That’s why the EU refuses to budge on State Aid, e.g. whatever Theresa May promised Nissan to not shut down Sunderland, and on dispute resolution mechanisms, as Craig says, they were not born yesterday.

    • Marmite

      That’s right Fazal. There has never been a moment when the UK hasn’t been perfidious. I can’t imagine anyone here not knowing that. I think the issue is that it is just such an unashamed perfidiousness now, with no effort at even disguising it. At least our ancestors had the decency, if you can call it that, to dress up their crimes somehow, or excuse them in some way.

  • N_

    Another example of an illegal act is the secret treaty between Britain and Israel, referenced by e.g. Theresa May when she called Israel Britain’s close ally. Alliances require treaties, and UN members are required (by treaty!) to register treaties they make with each other.

    Question is why Britgov is now framing its own planned action in this way (nobody should fall into the trap of believing there is a “free press” or independent political commentariat), and the answer is not that a few thousand gun-toting Ruritanian 1690-loving limp-d*cked Calvinist drum-bashers are holding it to ransom. It was obvious that no Spanish EU customs official or any other Catholic would be allowed by the “Simply the Best” UVF-“commemorating” thugs to set up shop in the port of Larne, but far more is happening here.

  • Goose

    Isn’t it all grist to the mill for the cause of Scottish independence?

    It isn’t just the ‘negotiating in bad faith’ aspect, as bad as that is. It was actually the basis for his party’s election in 2019 – his contract with the UK people: ‘get Brexit done’ and ‘oven-ready deal’ featured prominently in the campaign and seemed like a clear path out of the seemingly interminable, intractable, three years plus of parliamentary Brexit gridlock.

    Bizarrely, they’re also threatening to quit the EU-unrelated ECHR and the court’s jurisdiction, the human rights framework which is of course is wholly separate from the EU, and bound into the devolution settlements, especially Northern Ireland’s. The MSM reporting of that is equally shocking: ‘Johnson set to dump human rights’ – maybe he can take a dump on the Magna Carta while he’s at it? Since when did the PM become an absolute monarch?

    As for Blair, he was warned incorporating the ECHR into UK law wasn’t enough; originally Labour had planned to give UK judges the power to ‘strike down’ ECHR incompatible legislation – scrapping the ECHR and leaving the convention altogether would surely amount to that. Blair and Straw rejected this step on the grounds of parliamentary sovereignty being supreme – hence, where we are now, with a prat like Johnson armed with an undeserved majority acting like a wrecking ball.

    The case for a codified, written constitution has become overwhelming.

    • Bayard

      “‘Johnson set to dump human rights’ – maybe he can take a dump on the Magna Carta while he’s at it? Since when did the PM become an absolute monarch?”

      Nominative determinism: Boris as an absolute monarch, the “son” of John, whose regal failings produced the Magna Carta and whose style of rule his most closely resembles.

  • djm

    What a strange parallel universe this fine blog can be sometimes.

    A former member of the diplomatic corps opining about the sanctity of the law.
    Any fule no that law is all about interpretation of same. How else do the cabs for hire earn a crust.

    Presumably you’d have been bleating in 1940 that the Vichy agreement could not be torn up, just because it emasculated France.

    After all, thats what the WA signed us up for.

    • Ian

      The hyperbole and daft ignorance about what is in the WA, written to ensure the continuance of the GFA, is astonishing. Such junk has been uttered in the last few days like food blockades. The administration threatening to tear up the GFA, as well as the UK is not the EU, whose position has barely shifted since 2016, and who have been quite clear, but the Gove/Johnson/Cummings axis of evil.

  • Crispa

    Johnson knew exactly what he was doing and the implications when he signed the Agreement having persuaded a desperate Parliament to back him with the Ireland compromise as the bait. The implication of that part of the Agreement was that UK would be able to strike a trade deal that would maintain its relationship with the EU and that was sufficient to attract enough “Remain” support, including as I remember it from Labour. Having succeeded in that con trick he used it to get his current majority which could allow him to get away with this one. He is not just reneging on the EU but also on Parliament and indeed the British people as he is just tricking his way from one decision to another. I suspect the EU know exactly what it is dealing with but it is the British people (more specifically the English) who need to get woke to the huge confidence trick that he is playing.

  • Roger Gough

    Craig has suggested that the Russians would not have handed Navalny over had they poisoned him with Novochok. I would agree that that appears a sound, sensible assessment. The French have just “confirmed” that he was indeed poisoned with that substance. Currently to the fore as they are in UK-EU negotiations, can we take as gospel everything the French say?

    • laguerre

      Proper Brexiter suspicion of the French (the French are not leading the UK-EU negotiations; Michel Barnier, a French citizen, acts for the EU). I’m sure what happened is that the French, like the Germans, sourced the comparative samples necessary for identifying the poison (or chemical information, I don’t know which) from what was so generously on offer from Porton Down.

    • John A

      If the French have confirmed the presence of novichok, have they also confirmed the chain of custody of the samples? The Russian samples contain no trace of such poison (according to Russia) and maybe the French should test those samples as well. Perfidious Albion, aka Porton Down can well have contaminated the German samples when they tested them.

      • Bayard

        Well, yes, they wouldn’t be sending them to Switzerland for testing after last time, would they?

  • Cubby

    Perfidious Albion.

    The leopard doesn’t change its spots. Illegal wars. Looting other countries wealth. Corrupt contracts for their pals. This is the UK that Britnats want to hold Scotland a prisoner in. England deserves to stand alone – that’s what they voted for. Let’s see how they get on using their own talents and resources rather than taking what does not belong to them.

  • Geoffrey

    Luckily for Johnson he has got an international war criminal , partly responsible for the deaths of a million or so, telling him he should not break the law.

    • Bill Marsh

      Correct. If I were Johnson my response to Blair would be “I don’t need lessons on International Law from you.”

      • Geoffrey

        Or “I am only trying to get us out of a bad treaty …It’s not as if I am trying to start a war ! “.

  • Goose

    Since nobody seems to know what they are doing with this kamikaze-like strategy outside Johnson’s inner circle. Surely, there must be something else behind this Hail Mary move? Either : they’ve decided a series of bilateral agreements with Europe’s big players, bypassing the EU, will better serve the UK than an overarching deal; or, they’ve had some intel briefing(?) that the EU fall back position is to capitulate to the UK’s demands? Recent huge grins on the faces of key ministers, coming out of a briefing, suggest something is afoot. Remember the use of extensive surveillance gleaned intel in the run up to the Iraq vote and the spying at the UN. Hard not to believe they won’t be drawing on that impressive capability ‘in the UK interest’ here?

    • Blissex

      «they’ve decided a series of bilateral agreements with Europe’s big players, bypassing the EU, will better serve the UK than an overarching deal»

      That’s forbidden by the EU treaties.

      «or, they’ve had some intel briefing(?) that the EU fall back position is to capitulate to the UK’s demands?»

      Or they just plan to create an enduring mess with the EU that will enable them in 4 years to win the elections on a jingoistic record of anti-EU bluster.

  • Ben McDonnell

    There was another national leader whose tactics were to make international agreements and then break them, and it wasn’t Churchill. I have to say that the most famous example I know of in recent times is Adolf Hitler.

  • Theophilus

    For once, I have to say this article is humbug. The British government has been breaking both national and international law for years by supplying the barbarous Saudis with weapons to kill and maim civilians in Yemen. On 26 January 2016 junior FO Minister Tobias Ellwood told the House of Commons Development Committee that it would be ‘naive’ to expect anything else. Now he wants to be a rebel against Johnson. Pathetic.

  • Ian

    Meanwhile at the Old Bill:

    Eric Lewis, who is a practicing lawyer in United States knowledgeable on trial and sentencing issues, is expected to take witness stand. He’ll testify on the ways the legal team believes Assange would be “exposed to flagrant denial of justice” if put on trial in US.

    Julian Assange enters wearing a mask. Summers, his attorney, is addressing the court on mask-wearing. Both prosecution and defense legal teams are wearing masks in court for first time.

    • Ian

      James Lewis had the court sever the link with E. Lewis to complain to the judge about the “guillotine,” which is time limits on witnesses. He is upset E. Lewis is giving answers to his questions beyond yes or no because it is taking longer than he wants

      Judge Baraitser says this is “not so much a guillotine as it is case management.” She rejects J. Lewis’ request to control the witness. She says that is the prosecutor’s responsibility. It’s only fair if asked open question for witness to be able to answer

      Let the record show James Lewis, the prosecutor representing the US government, wasted 10 minutes complaining about not having enough time to cross-examine Eric Lewis. [because he is answering the questions with more knowledge than the prosecution, who is allowed to go on at (misleading) length, while the witness is supposed to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’]

  • Mist001

    Will the UK be prosecuted for breaking ‘international law’? Isn’t that what usually happens when some party breaks the law?

    So, who’s going to prosecute the UK? The EU?

    I bet the UK is quaking in its boots over that as I type.

    And that international law being shown up for what it really is. Just a meaningless phrase made up by people who enjoy a sense of self importance.

    • Geoffrey

      Blair knew that when he broke international law, any ruling in the International court could not be enforced as the UK would be able to use it’s veto. At least this time we are not trying to kill Muslims.

      • SA

        “At least this time we are not trying to kill Muslims.”

        Except in Syria and Yemen you mean?
        The killing of Muslims has been so normalised that it has faded into the background.

    • Mighty Drunken

      The EU could nullify the current agreement and impose trade sanctions. Of course the UK could retaliate. So the question becomes, who gets hurt more by them? I suspect, due to their respective sizes, the UK will come off worse. Don’t worry though, certain papers will convince their readers that the EU are evil for upholding international law. So that will be alright.
      For some reason Trump springs to mind…

    • Courtenay Barnett

      Mist 001,

      ” And that international law being shown up for what it really is. Just a meaningless phrase made up by people who enjoy a sense of self importance.”


      A credible reference point the world needs and cannot do without – unless one wants to revert to pre-UN days and behind that yet to the League of Nations and then further back to World War 1 and further – and where then does that leave the world?

      • Ian

        Exactly, and just have a look which countries have most vehemently opposed international law, not just in modern times, but just as tellingly, in the 1930’s – the situation international law was designed to avoid happening again.

      • ET

        “International law”, in reality, only meaningfully exists to the extent that the international community is collectively willing to enforce it. In practice what this means is that only nations which have no influence over the dominant narratives in the international community are subject to “international law”.

        A quote from a Caitlkin Johnstone article from July on a different topic but it seems apt:

        Will the EU confront or appease Boris? If the EU seeks redress in the courts or applies sanctions such as tariffs, the island of Ireland will bear consequences. If not, the island of Ireland will still bear consequences. If there is no deal, same outcome. Will the US step in?

        It’s perhaps a tough S*** situation for Ireland and perhaps it is time for Ireland to accept reality and plan for the worst case scenario.

    • craig Post author

      You could not be more wrong. It will be taken to the ECJ – which has specified jurisdiction in the Withdrawal Agreement – and will result in a fine of many billions. Which the EU will be allowed to levy in tariffs on British goods.

  • fonso

    The Tories’ poll numbers and those of Boris Johnson actually went up this weekend following those ‘ rare interventions ‘ by Tony Blair and Sir John Major…..As anybody outside self-referential establishment media could have predicted.

    • laguerre

      Funny how Brexiters are obsessed by what Blair and Major say. The objections to the illegality of the bill are pretty universal, not just those two. If the rise really is due to their remarks, then it will be lost again. The rise looked to me like an insignificant blip, though much lauded by Brexiters.

      • Mist001

        It can’t be illegal because the EU can’t enforce any legality. The EU doesn’t even have a police force. It may be underhand, it maybe ‘dishonourable’, it may be the UK being cads but until any act of illegality can be enforced, then it’s not illegal.

        • laguerre

          International law is not like domestic law. It is not enforced by a force, such as a police force. It is enforced by sanctions or other forms of reprisal, or isolation. The final sanction is war, but that is not in question here, except in the fevered fantasies of some Brexiters.

          • Mist001

            My view is that the problem for the EU is that it sets a precedent and that’s what they’re unhappy about. Other states such as Italy, Poland, or Greece may well look at it and say ‘well, if the UK can do this, then so can we’. It opens a can of worms.

            Sanctions are unlikely to work with the UK because apart from the US, I think the UK will just start trading with each nation individually which will suit both parties.

            The EU has been exposed.

          • Ian

            I think your knowledge of the EU is rather thin, maybe do a little research on the subject. Mind you, you are in the same boat as most of the government and brexiters in general.

          • Bayard

            “My view is that the problem for the EU is that it sets a precedent and that’s what they’re unhappy about. “

            The problem about that view is that it only works if the EU is an empire kept together by military force, which it is not. It was formed from a voluntary confederation of nations and will always come apart if the option of staying a member is less attractive than leaving. I very much anyone, apart from a few starry-eyed Brexiters in 1996, underestimates the difficulty in leaving, simply because of the complexity and nature of the union, not because of any desire to compel a member to stay. After all, everyone knows of at least one complicated, messy and acrimonious divorce with lying, venom and vituperation on both sides. It has very little effect on the next couple who decide to call it a day on their marriage.

          • laguerre


            “Sanctions are unlikely to work with the UK because apart from the US, I think the UK will just start trading with each nation individually which will suit both parties.”

            That’s good for a laugh. The UK has been taking that line right from the beginning, and its never worked with the EU. Swashbuckling Open-trading Global Britain, only in four years the only deal of significance they’ve managed to reach is Japan, on the same terms as the EU (that means, with the rest they don’t have even that), and the boss in Downing Street, Dominic Cummings, wants to undercut the deals made by subsidising hi-tech to give Britain an unfair advantage.

    • Yr Hen Gof

      To be fair I think Churchill called it correctly when he said, there are no such things as public polls, only published polls.
      They are easily rigged and sufficient actors both public and private happy to oblige.
      I believe Edward Snowden revealed that GCHQ had trialled interfering in polls.
      In the case of General Elections? Rig the polls and rig the ballot to confirm the polls?
      I’d be hesitant to rule out any behaviour, criminal or otherwise.

  • Adrian Evitts

    O wad some Power the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us!

    Boris Johnson thinks of himself as an international statesman in the same mould as Winston Churchill. But as I consider his double-dealing over the Withdrawal Agreement, I am much more inclined to see parallels with Adolf Hitler’s disdain for the treaties signed by Germany in the aftermath of the First World War, and his own treacherous relations (eg with the Soviet Union) in the run-up to the Second. We all know how that turned out – both for the man and for his country.

    • Geoffrey

      As a matter of interest Adrian if you were Adolf Hitler, how would you have approached the crippling reparations demanded by the victors of WW1, when your population were starving and your currency was less than toilet paper ?

      • Kempe

        Reparations were cancelled in 1932 and hyperinflation ceased in 1923 so neither were Adolph’s problem.

        He could’ve done what the Weimar Republic did and re-negotiate the payments, also invest the loans he raised to pay for re-armament in industry and turn Germany into an exporting nation.

      • Bayard

        Also reparations did untold economic damage to the countries who received them, which was probably why they were cancelled.

      • Adrian Evitts

        I’d breach agreements limiting my country’s ability to wage war; antagonise my neighbours by invading and occupying them; demonise minorities in my country by the skillful use of propaganda (thus deflecting criticism of myself, and enabling their increased persecution); suffer inevitable defeat at the hands of much stronger economic forces; and kill myself when the full realisation of my stupidity finally overwhelmed me, but in the hope that 75 years later, I would still have apologists making excuses for me, and other politicians foolish enough to emulate me.

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