Johnson did not understand his own Brexit deal, says Cummings

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Boris Johnson never understood what his Withdrawal Agreement with the EU really meant, his former chief adviser has said.

Dominic Cummings said in a provocative series of tweets that he had always intended to get “the trolley” – his derogatory nickname for the Prime Minister – to “ditch the bits we didn’t like” after beating Labour in the 2019 general election.

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 Mr Johnson signed in January 2020.

He said that when Mr Johnson finally realised the true implications of the deal, he claimed he would never have agreed to it – although Mr Cummings said that was a lie.

During the election campaign, Mr 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.

Mr 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)”.

However Brexit minister Lord Frost insisted that everyone in Government knew exactly what they were signing up to.

He told broadcasters: “So I think we all understood extremely well what this deal meant, it was a deal that delivered on democracy and delivered on the referendum result.”

He added that “it took the United Kingdom out of the European Union” and “it was a very good deal from that point of view”.

Watch: Boris Johnson promised to ‘tear up’ protocol, claims DUP MP

Asked why, therefore, he wanted to renegotiate it now, Lord Frost said: “Because unfortunately, it’s clear that the protocol as it’s being implemented in Northern Ireland is not being implemented with the necessary sensitivity.

“We have to come back to these arrangements again if they don’t enjoy consent across Northern Ireland, that unfortunately is the situation. So that’s why it has to be redone.”

Philip Rycroft, former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union from 2017 to 2019, earlier told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme that the Government “will have known absolutely what it was signing up to when it agreed to the protocol”.

Mr Cummings, who was credited with masterminding the successful Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, said that, when Mr 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 (Labour leader Jeremy) 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.”

Watch: Northern Ireland Brexit row: What is the EU's olive branch to the UK to try and solve the dispute?

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