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Boris Johnson's gibberish may be surreal but it's also dangerous
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When the British prime minister can't be bothered to lie, he lapses into nonsense

It's not when Boris Johnson is lying that you have to have to worry. If he's lying, that just means he's still breathing. No, the real danger sign is the gibbering. It's what he does when he can't be bothered to think up a lie.

Even for someone with so much practice, mendacity takes a bit of effort. When it's too much trouble, Johnson just babbles. The big problem for Ireland is that his most delirious gush of gabble is about something that matters a great deal to the future of this island: the Northern Ireland protocol to the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

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Johnson claimed that the Northern Ireland protocol was "always intended to be a light-touch measure" and not to "create any kind of barrier down the Irish Sea". That's self-evidently false. It was inconceivable that the EU would ever have agreed to "light touch" protection of its precious Single Market. Hence, of course, there is a barrier down the Irish Sea.

When Johnson signed what he hailed as a "fantastic" deal with the EU, he agreed that goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland would be subject to the EU customs code. The relevant regulation is 2015/2446. It is 557 pages long. To use the kind of classical allusion that Johnson favours, that's as light touch as a thunderbolt from Zeus.

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The deeper problem is with what Johnson said when Devenport asked him what he wants to achieve in relation to the protocol: "What we're doing is removing what I think of as the unnecessary protuberances and barriers that have grown up and we're getting the barnacles off the thing and sandpapering it into shape."

This is when you know Johnson is completely winging it. He lapses into a druggy word association game where sound replaces meaning. So "protocol" suggests "protuberance". "Barrier" morphs into "barnacles". The image of the border in the Irish Sea fires in his synapses some memory of boats being hauled onto land and the props being sandpapered to get the barnacles off. If the cameras had not been rolling, the sandpaper would have turned into a sandpiper and flown off with a barnacle goose into the mystic protoplasm of the global British future.

This is not some dude with a big bong writing awful poetry at three a.m. It is, to use the word Johnson has so much trouble with, "actually" the voice of the sovereign government of Northern Ireland. There are actual consequences for a society whose recovery from a traumatic conflict is still fragile and reversible.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 27th, 2021 at 01:44:35 PM EST

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