When future historians try to understand how Britain ended up with a choice between chaos and becoming a satellite of the European Union, one question will stump them,wrote Fintan O’Toole in this Irish Times column in November 2018. “Were these people telling deliberate lies or were they merely staggeringly ignorant? Where does mendacity stop and idiocy begin?

Brexit is, supposedly, done, but the question remains.

And the issue has been highlighted more starkly than ever before by the revelation that Victoria Prentis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food in Johnson’s Government had not read the Brexit Deal when it was finalised. As reported by The Guardian, when asked if her jaw had dropped when she saw the deal with the EU on Christmas Eve, Prentis told the Lords EU Environment Subcommittee: “No, the agreement came when we were all very busy on Christmas Eve, in my case organising the local nativity trail.

This of course prompted a fair amount of critique:

But hang on a minute.

What about the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister has stated he has read the Brexit Deal – quoted by Reuters here (thanks Barış Çelik for the find!) but judging by his abject answers to questions about the Deal, we are left confused as to whether he has read it and has not understood it, or has not even bothered, or – perhaps worse still – he is deliberately lying about the contents of it.

Or – putting it another way – when it comes to Johnson and reading the Deal there is doubt. Is it incompetence or malevolence? We don’t know. And hence it is hard to nail him for it.

By contrast what Prentis said is simple for everyone to handle – it’s incompetence, and she is called out for that. But, weirdly, I feel almost sorry for her – had she been a more accomplished liar, she would more easily have got away with having not read the Deal. Somehow her admission was strangely honest, and in these strange times in UK politics that stands out.

As Garry Kasparov has said, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” How simple it is to respond to Prentis’s honest incompetence, while we struggle with Johnson’s malevolent deceit, is testimony to that.

[UPDATE 14.1.2021, 1445]
So now it’s all clear? 🤔

[UPDATE 14.1.2021, 1500]
Which has now become he hasn’t read it…


  1. Niall Martin


  2. Patrick Taylor

    That quote of Kasparov is so pithy and on the nail that it should be repeated daily by all before the read the online sources, listen to the old media, or read a paper.

    There is so so much dross filling peoples daily lives that thoughtful pieces are lost in bilge. Note today the BBC filling its remit with an Indian lady criticised in India for being too sexy. Yep hugely important so it is the most read piece.

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