The poet said that it is good to see ourselves as others see us. We should perhaps consider why we are now so mistrusted across the Channel. In my two minutes, I will give two reasons.
First, the perception is increasingly that we are not implementing the Irish deal. It is seven months on, with only seven months to go, yet there has been no consultation, no draft legislation, no staff recruitment, no procurement of IT or construction of infrastructure and apparently, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, noted, no office for the 27 in Belfast—although the Chinese have one.
Our friends well remember Mr Johnson in denial that his deal entails a two-way EU trade frontier in the Irish Sea, even though it is spelt out in his treaty. They now suspect that he plans to persist in prevarication, forcing them back to the inner-Irish border and blaming Brussels for what that would do to the Good Friday agreement. Our good faith is being called into question.
Secondly, we have rejected the 27’s proposals for a new relationship based on the joint declaration. We will not let the Commission show the 27 our counterproposals—odd tactics if we are looking to win friends and get some influence. We have repudiated the level playing field concept that we had agreed in the joint declaration and encouraged the perception that we would be happy to have no deal.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, the increasing perception across the channel is that, under the cover of the virus-led recession, we aim to conceal the self-harm done by our new and narrowly autarchic definition of sovereignty. Our old friends suspect that that is why we reject an extension of the transition period; the virus cover works only if the crash-out is quick. The 27 know that the virus means there cannot be a comprehensive free trade agreement by December, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, pointed out. They cannot believe that Mr Johnson does not know it, so they question our good faith.
We are increasingly seen as irresponsible and untrustworthy. We are not behaving as did all the Governments for whom I was proud to work. It is very sad and, worse than sad, shaming.