Monday, 17 June 2019

Can they be certain that he's lying?

Whilst Boris Johnson has committed himself to removing the UK from the EU on 31st October ‘with or without a deal’, not all of those backing him seem to agree entirely with that position.  Amongst his backers there appear to be at least a few who have previously said that they think no deal would be a disaster.  There are several possible reasons why such people might support Johnson.  They could, of course, simply have changed their minds, although it’s perhaps more likely that they have decided that their future careers depend on being on the winning side and are more important than the consequences (for other people) of Brexit.  I suspect that others, though, have simply concluded that Johnson is lying, and will not proceed with a no deal.  As a general rule, assuming that Johnson is lying is a safe position to take, but there is always an outside chance that this occasion is the exception that proves the rule – perhaps he really is as stupid as he would need to be if he weren’t lying.  After all, he’s well known for his failure to engage with the detail of anything.  In his case, given a choice between depending on his mendacity or his stupidity, I’d find it a tough call.
Insofar as one can read anything firm into his interminable waffle, his ‘solution’ to the Irish backstop problem seems to be to take it out of the Withdrawal Agreement and discuss it as part of the negotiations for a longer-term trade deal.  The EU, to say nothing of Ireland, have ruled this out categorically and repeatedly, but he still seems to think that a deal is possible.  I think there’s at least an outside possibility that he might, for once, be right on that.  If, for instance, the UK were to give a firm and binding commitment to maintain alignment with all EU rules and procedures until such time as new trading arrangements can be agreed which obviate the need for any backstop, then it seems to me to be quite possible that agreement could be reached.  Whilst many would argue that that is exactly what the backstop is (and they’d be right, of course), Johnson could quite happily call it something else (maybe even give it a good Latin name – I’m sure that his pal Jacob could help him in that endeavour) and we could all pretend that it’s something completely different.  EU history suggests that as long as they get what they need to protect the single market, they won’t have any serious problem with agreeing an alternative nomenclature.  The biggest problem that I see with such a linguistically flexible approach to implementing the backstop is not that it is impossible in itself but that it depends on the EU27 being willing to accept anything said by Johnson as a ‘firm and binding commitment’.  Given his record, I wouldn’t – why would they?


Gav said...

The principle of indifference suggests that the prior probability of Mr Johnson lying about a given issue is around 50%.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't politics always been about 'linguistic flexibility'?

It's only since Donald Trump came to power has everything got screwed. Imagine, a politician actually saying what he wants to do and then having the temerity to actually go and do it once in power.

No wonder we all feel this world has gone crazy!

John Dixon said...


Indeed it does. But is the principle of indifference fully applicable in a situation where there are a large number of previous actions to draw on when making the assessment?


" Imagine, a politician actually saying what he wants to do and then having the temerity to actually go and do it once in power", hard to imagine, I grant you. But just because Trump says he's doing what he promised, doesn't mean that he actually is. To give just one example, the wall has become a glorified fence, will be a lot shorter, and won't be paid for by Mexico. Merely asserting that such a wall fulfils the promises he made would be like, oh, I don't know - perhaps like a Brexiteer who said that no-one was talking about opting out of the single market now arguing that leaving the single market was exactly what people voted for.

glynbeddau said...

You can always tell when Johnson's lying. His lips are moving.

Spirit of BME said...

The most obvious thing I have to say is, that I do not have any skin in this game and I am almost certain you do not have a vote either. So, shouting from the outside is not going to be a rewarding past time.
The Boy Johnson is like the others, they are simply talking to their base and it should not be taken seriously.
At this stage no one can take a definitive position on how to deal with the EU Commission as no one (as yet) knows who the new deal makers are going to be, even poor Mutti isn’t what she used to be.
What I am quite certain of is that the new Brussels team will buy-in to the two objectives of the old regime –
1.That a signal must be sent to remaining 27 giving a clear message that leaving will be painful.
2.That a UK economy and prospects after leaving must be restrained and suppressed in order to protect the EU economic markets.
But the China vs US trade issues may change all that.