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13th Oct 2021

Dominic Cummings claims the UK government always intended to ‘ditch’ the Northern Ireland protocol

Ava Evans

The controversial mechanism was introduced to get Boris’ ‘oven ready’ Brexit deal over the line

Everyone’s favourite advisor has claimed the Prime Minister never understood his Withdrawal Agreement with the EU until it was over the line. 

Dominic Cummings, famous for “testing his eyesight” during the pandemic, says the government always planned to “ditch” parts of the deal they didn’t like after they’d “whacked Corbyn”.

Namely, the Northern Ireland protocol. 

His intervention is timely. Lord Frost, the government’s chief Brexit negotiator, is currently in Lisbon attempting to rectify the shambles generated by Johnson’s deal. 

Frost, speaking at the British embassy in Lisbon on Tuesday (October 12), said the UK government was looking to negotiate a new protocol – despite agreeing to this one only two years ago.

No one in Brussels was amused, with one diplomat describing the speech as “patronising”.

Throughout the election campaign, Boris Johnson repeatedly promised his Brexit deal, including the Northern Ireland Protocol, was a “great deal” that was “oven ready”.

Writing on Twitter, Johnson’s ex-advisor said the Prime Minister hadn’t necessarily lied about how great he thought his deal was; rather, the Prime Minister simply didn’t understand what he was signing up for. 

Cummings wrote: “No what I’ve said does NOT mean ‘the PM was lying in GE2019’

“He never had a scoobydoo [sic] what the deal he signed meant.”

The PM’s ex-advisor claims Johnson did not understand the deal until after he’d signed it. 

“He never understood what leaving Customs Union meant until 11/20”

When the Prime Minister did finally understand the deal, that’s when the lies allegedly began

Cummings wrote: “He was babbling ‘I’d never have signed it if I’d understood it’ (but that WAS a lie)”

The tweets have raised alarm in Dublin.

Former Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who negotiated the Northern Ireland protocol with Johnson, said if the comments are true it proves the UK government acted in “bad faith”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Varadkar said: “Those comments are very alarming because that would indicate that this is a government, an administration, that acted in bad faith and that message needs to be heard around the world

“Surely the message must go out to all countries around the world that this is a British government that doesn’t necessarily keep its word and doesn’t necessarily honour the agreements it makes.

“And you shouldn’t make any agreements with them until such time as you’re confident that they keep their promises, and honour things, for example, like the protocol”.

Boris Johnson is still yet to deliver on his promise of a free-trade agreement with the USA. 

Varadkar’s comments aren’t the best reference. 

Johnson recently returned from a trip to Washington. While there, President Joe Biden warned that peace in Northern Ireland must not be jeopardised as a result of complications caused by Brexit.

If you trust Cummings, it’s not looking good.

What is the Northern Ireland Protocol?

Putting a land border between Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic of Ireland (in the EU) violates the 1998 Good Friday agreement. 

Keeping freedom of movement between the two countries is integral to the peace agreement. 

Governments agreed to a border in the Irish Sea, meaning all goods entering Northern Ireland would be subject to EU standards. This allowed dairy, eggs and other perishables to travel freely through Northern Ireland, into the Republic. 

The ‘sausage row’ explained

As a blanket safety rule, the EU does not allow chilled meats to travel into the bloc from non-EU countries. That means a ban on sending sausages from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The EU allowed a grace, transition period. This meant sausages, amongst other meat, could travel freely from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and into the Republic. 

That grace period is over. 

What does the UK government want?

Boris Johnson’s pretty unhappy with this agreement, despite signing up to it. 

The UK government is threatening to continue trading meat through the border, despite it being a violation of EU law. The government wants to get rid of the customs checks and procedures on the UK-EU border. 

Johnson’s also pretty unhappy that the European Commission and the European Court of Justice oversee how the protocol works.

What does the EU say?

The EU says: honey, you voted for it, you got it. 

And, honestly? They’ve been pretty lenient so far, having granted multiple extensions on the meat grace period, while the UK government sorted itself out. 

But wait, we knew what we were voting for, right?

Actually, no.

Boris Johnson et al promised the border wouldn’t be an issue, even though many trade experts promised it would. 

Ahead of the general election, on December 8 2019, Johnson told Sky News: “There’s no question of there being checks on goods going NI/GB or GB/NI”

Again before the election, on November 15, Boris Johnson promised listeners on a BBC phone-in: “We will make sure that businesses face no extra costs and no checks for stuff being exported from NI to GB.”

Even in August 2020, he promised “over my dead body” there wouldn’t be an Irish Sea trade border.

Anyway, that’s what we got.

So what about Cummings’ claims?

It’s quite possible that in the run up to the Brexit vote, the architect behind the £350 million bus farce also lied about the Northern Ireland border.

It’s also conceivable, remembering the political climate towards the end of 2019, Johnson would have signed anything that ensured getting Brexit done.

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