The Secretary of State for telling lies

There was a time when government ministers were expected to speak truthfully when reporting to parliament. It was considered a resignation matter whenever a minister misled the house. That was before the Brexit lie machine rolled into full production. It is now considered a matter of little significance when a minister lies on the record. It is simply business as usual in post-truth Britain. Take for example the statement made by David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the EU, to parliament on 13th November 2017, in which he said “we also remain resolutely committed to upholding the Belfast or Good Friday agreement in all its parts and to find a solution that works for the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland ” (source, Hansard). This statement is factually untrue but nobody in parliament has bothered to seek a correction. The Belfast or Good Friday agreement contains the following statement of joint intent by the British and Irish governments, “Wishing to develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union.” Clearly Britain will be in breach of this fundamental point once it has withdrawn from the European Union. This cannot be described honestly as upholding the agreement in all its parts. Britain and Ireland’s shared responsibilities as EU members are described in clause 17 of Strand Two of the Good Friday Agreement which covers the role and workings of the North South Ministerial Council, including the following; “The Council to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings.” Clearly Britain will no longer be in a position to fulfil its obligations under this clause as it has stated its intent to diverge from EU legislation (including leaving the customs union and single market) and will hardly be in a position to ensure the views of the Council are taken into account at relevant EU meetings as it will no longer be a member. David Davis must be fully aware of this as he has said publicly that Britain will diverge from EU law, after Brexit. The only reasonable conclusion is that Mr Davis is either irresponsibly unaware of the impact of his words and actions or he knowingly misled parliament when he said on 13th November that “we also remain resolutely committed to upholding the Belfast or Good Friday agreement in all its parts...” This statement is factually incorrect on several points as Britain is already in technical breach of the Good Friday agreement by issuing notice to leave the EU and will be fully in breach once this decision is implemented. Once upon a time Ministers of the Crown were expected to give an honest and accurate account to Parliament but we must assume Mr Davis’s lie will remain uncorrected on the parliamentary record, until someone insists he recants. If Britain truly wishes to maintain and uphold its commitments under the Good Friday agreement the government must now state publicly how it intends to correct its breach. It would be particularly interesting to hear how they intend to see that any Brexit outcome serves the wishes of all communities in Northern Ireland given that 56% of the population voted to remain in the EU. It will also be of some interest to see how the British government proposes to repair the seemingly irredeemable damage caused, by Brexit, to clauses 1, 2, 11 and 12 of Strand Two of the agreement. No doubt Mr Davis will invent some cock-and-bull nonsense to explain that, and parliament will accept his lies in dumb silence, in due course.

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