Dismay at the government’s contempt for the rule of law now spreads across parliamentary divides.
Making and adhering to international treaties is the mark of a serious nation state or collective of nations, and it can have extremely serious consequences. In early August 1914, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany because it had violated Belgian neutrality, in contravention of a treaty of 1839 of which it, Britain and France were co-signatories, and which guaranteed Belgian independence. Some MPs in the ruling Liberal party were bitterly opposed on principle to British involvement in foreign wars and wished to keep out of the conflict. However Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary at the time, argued passionately that if Britain did not honour this treaty, albeit 75 years old and unknown to most Britons, its word would never be taken seriously in the world again. Just over four years later, Belgian independence was restored, but partly at a cost of nearly 900,000 British and British Empire lives.
Now Boris Johnson wishes to ignore a treaty he asked parliament to approve just eight months ago, whose qualities he praised with his familiar vacuous bluster and whose existence the majority of the British people are all too clearly aware. And, although it is the treaty enabling us to withdraw from the European Union, even many Brexiteers are appalled when they consider the reputational consequences of simply breaking a solemn and binding treaty, not least one the present Prime Minister was himself so keen to conclude.
On Thursday one of Johnson’s predecessors as Tory leader, Michael Howard, a committed Brexiteer, attacked him for a move that, if followed through, would take Britain down to the moral level of the sort of rogue states whose own disrespect for the rule of law keeps some Tory MPs chuntering (quite rightly) from one Christmas to the next.
Given his famous inability to grasp detail, or the sheer laziness that prevents him from applying himself to do so, it is possible that Johnson had no idea of the implications of the treaty that, only last January, he was so keen to persuade his party and parliament to endorse. Either that, or in professing how “oven-ready” it was, Johnson was telling yet another of the serious lies that has marked his career as a journalist and politician and indeed his baroque private life. In the context of the Covid-19 crisis, of course, he has been telling them almost every time he opens his mouth – last week about the huge numbers returning to work (they weren’t), this about a “moon shot” solution to the pandemic for which the technology doesn’t yet exist.
Only now, as Prime Minister, when he engages in these degrading acts he brings down the perceptions of the country he leads and the reputations of his colleagues who choose, for reasons of ambition, to continue to be bound to him by collective responsibility. These include the law officers who appear simply to have shrugged their shoulders at this proposal flagrantly …read more
Source:: New Statesman