Boris Johnson always intended to “ditch” the Northern Ireland protocol, Dominic Cummings has claimed.
In a string of tweets on Tuesday night, the prime minister’s former adviser said the Brexit deal had been a way of “whacking [Jeremy] Corbyn” and winning the 2019 election – adding “of course” the government should be allowed to “sometimes break deals… like every other state does”.
Cummings also claimed that Johnson never understood what his Withdrawal Agreement with the EU really meant.
His latest intervention came after Brexit minister Lord Frost set out the UK’s demands for fundamental changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol contained in the agreement which Johnson signed in January 2020.
He said that when Johnson finally realised the true implications of the deal, he claimed he would never have agreed to it – although Cummings said that was a lie.
Cummings’ comments caused alarm in Dublin, where Leo Varadkar – the former Taoiseach who negotiated the protocol with Johnson in October 2019 – said they showed the prime minister could not be trusted.
“Those comments are very alarming because that would indicate that this is a government administration that acted in bad faith,” Varadkar said. “And that message needs to be heard around the world, because if the British government doesn’t honour its agreements, doesn’t adhere to treaties it signs, that must apply to everyone else too.
“So at the moment they’re going around the world they are trying to negotiate new trade agreements. The message must go out to all countries around the world that this is a British government that doesn’t necessarily keep its word, doesn’t necessarily honour the agreements it makes.”
Brussels will on Wednesday unveil its own “very far-reaching proposals” to end the row over the protocol and checks on goods in the Irish Sea.
During the election campaign, Johnson repeatedly boasted that the “divorce” settlement he had negotiated with Brussels – including the Northern Ireland Protocol – was a “great” deal that was “oven ready” to be signed.
But, Cummings, said: “What I’ve said does NOT mean ‘the PM was lying in General Election 2019’, he never had a scoobydoo what the deal he signed meant.
“He never understood what leaving Customs Union meant until November 2020.”
When the prime minister did finally comprehend, “he was babbling ‘I’d never have signed it if I’d understood it’ (but that WAS a lie)”.
Cummings, who was credited with masterminding the successful Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, said that, when Johnson entered No 10 In 2019, the country was facing the “worst constitutional crisis in a century” with much of what he called the “deep state” angling for “Bino” (Brexit in name only) or a second referendum.
“So we wriggled through with best option we could and intended to get the trolley to ditch bits we didn’t like after whacking Corbyn. We prioritised,” he said.
He dismissed suggestions that abandoning those elements of the Withdrawal Agreement would mean breaking international law.
“Our priorities meant e.g. getting Brexit done is 10,000 times more important than lawyers yapping re international law in negotiations with people who break international law all the time,” he said.
“EU membership infantilised SW1 (Westminster) as yapping re ‘international law’ clearly shows.”