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Brexit: Tearing up Northern Ireland protocol would be legal, claims attorney general
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UK and EU to hold crunch talks on Northern Ireland as deal hangs in the balance
Attorney General Suella Braverman is said to have approved the scrapping of swathes of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Northern Ireland protocol: UK and EU to hold crunch talks as deal hangs in the balance
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said the Good Friday Agreement was more important than the Northern Ireland Protocol
Scrapping Northern Ireland protocol is legal, says attorney general
UK and EU to hold crunch talks on Northern Ireland as deal hangs in the balance
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Sociopathy and stupidity worn like badges of honour in cabinet of all the talents

By John Crace
Boris Johnson hosting a cabinet away day at Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent on Thursday.
Boris Johnson hosting a cabinet away day at Middleport Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent on Thursday. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Reuters

On days like these it’s hard to know if the government is criminally insane or just criminal. Perhaps it’s both. After telling parliament several times that the very idea of illegality in Downing Street was unthinkable, Boris Johnson was forced to admit that a further 50 fines had been handed out to members of his staff. That takes the total amount of fixed-penalty notices well into three figures, with the police barely having begun their investigation into the 12 parties.

Other than the prestige of being the main resident of the most law-breaking venue in the entire country during lockdown, the only comfort for the Convict was that this time he wasn’t among those who got collared by the Old Bill. Though his time will surely come again. Instead it was just his underlings – who had only gone to the parties because they had been assured they were perfectly legal by the prime minister – who got the criminal record. Yet again, Johnson was the go-to man for laying down his friends for his life.

The news of the latest police fines arrived just in time for the arrival of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Oliver Dowden at the cabinet play-date in Stoke. Rees-Mogg greeted the news with a sense of rapture. The FPNs proved that the Convict was a man of utmost probity and his only regret was that the police hadn’t issued more of them. The Mogg is completely abject in his needy devotion. Dowden took one look at the waiting press mob and dived into a doorway. Of a bunker. It was some time before he guiltily did the walk of shame.

It was fortunate, however, that the fines had come too late for Johnson’s LBC interview with Nick Ferrari, which had been recorded on his trip to Scandinavia the day before. Still there was just time for him to say he didn’t approve of a windfall tax but if everyone else wanted one he’d probably do it anyway as he’d never given much of a toss about anything anyway. Though it would break his heart to knowingly do the right thing. He’s a man whose convictions are strictly criminal.

Come the cabinet meeting, the best he could say was that he was delighted with the growth figures. An economy that is only flatlining is now apparently a Tory aspiration. By the end of the day, Johnson was blocking publication of the Security Service advice he had received on Evgeny Lebedev. Advice he was obliged to hand over after a binding Commons vote. The Convict never did think any of the rules applied to him. Least of all these ones. His amoral sociopathy is his strongest asset. Having a conscience can drag you down.

Elsewhere in government, Northern Ireland seems to bring out the stupidest and the worst. First off we had the attorney general, Suella Braverman, declare that she was perfectly OK with the UK breaking international law. Just as long as we didn’t make a habit of it. Or even if we did, come to think of it. Braverman is just another apparatchik whose job depends on her willingness to do whatever Johnson wants. She likes to boast of how well qualified she is, but her actions only make you think it can’t be too hard to become a top lawyer. No one has yet seen her approximate any cognitive ability.

Still, she keeps good company. Step forward Liz Truss, who declared she was feeling tetchy with the EU after Maroš Šefčovič hinted there would be a trade war if the UK decided to trigger article 16. Our quarter-witted foreign secretary has yet to realise that the Northern Ireland protocol was negotiated and agreed by her own government just a few years ago in order to get a Brexit deal through the UK parliament. Somehow, in her barely functioning synapses, she has reconfigured events to an altered reality in which the EU duped the Brits into signing something against our will.

Then there was Conor Burns, a junior minister for Northern Ireland, who had gone to the US merely to post photos of himself on Twitter with a huge wad of paper, while observing that these formed the documentation now required to facilitate trade between the UK and the EU. Er, yes, Conor dearest. That’s precisely what so many people were warning your government back in 2016 as they suggested that Brexit wasn’t a particularly good idea. Give it a year or so and Conor might come to realise that leaving the EU has caused a 4% hit to the UK economy.

One member of the wankocracy not on view was Michael Gove. Though he should have been in the Commons to open the second day of the Queen’s speech debate on “fairness at work and power in communities”. But after his cocaine binge the day before – any minister can fuck up one media interview, but it takes a certain genius to fuck up all five – the Govester was lying down in a darkened room, nursing his nose and on the phone to his sponsor. “Thing is Mikey, you still haven’t quite got the hang of Step One.”

So it was the perfectly nice but wholly unremarkable junior business minister, Paul Scully, who was left to pick up the pieces of what passed for a levelling up agenda. He was looking forward to the economy growing a bit, he said hopefully. Weren’t we all, though there is little sign of it. Nor could Scully offer any clue when it might happen. He also looked forward to the UK benefiting from a flexible workforce, though not quite so flexible as P&O’s. And we’d be levelling up somehow or other at some unspecified time in the future. Thank you. I’m here.

Labour’s Angela Rayner wasn’t sure whether to take pity on Scully – it wasn’t his fault he was so useless – or to go for the jugular. So she pitched her response somewhere in between. A semi-detached contempt. Was that really it? Where was the employment bill? The Tories were making no effort to disguise they had no interest in working people. A miserable vision whose highlight was bus passes for elderly people so they had somewhere to keep warm. An old people’s creche.

Next they would be having gala dinners to open food banks. Tinned beans as finger food. Scrub that. They were already doing that: if they could get there in time before Lee Anderson closed them. Just another day in the life of a necrotic government. Viva the Twatterati. Lucky us.

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Dive Deeper:
Brexit: Tearing up Northern Ireland protocol would be legal, claims attorney general
Fresh legal advice comes as Boris Johnson dismisses idea of EU-UK trade war as ‘crazy’
UK and EU to hold crunch talks on Northern Ireland as deal hangs in the balance
Attorney General Suella Braverman is said to have approved the scrapping of swathes of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Northern Ireland protocol: UK and EU to hold crunch talks as deal hangs in the balance
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said the Good Friday Agreement was more important than the Northern Ireland Protocol
Scrapping Northern Ireland protocol is legal, says attorney general
UK and EU to hold crunch talks on Northern Ireland as deal hangs in the balance
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Attorney General 'approves' move to rip up Boris Johnson's Brexit deal
THE UK’s Attorney General has “approved” a unilateral move to tear up part of Britain’s Brexit  agreement despite dire warnings from…
Liz Truss’s plan to revoke NI protocol ‘splits allies and risks trade war’
EU sources say threat to abandon parts of agreement risks undermining alliance against Vladimir Putin
Get all your news in one place