It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain as we learned exactly why “Liz Truss” rhymes with “mistrust”.
While Brexit continues to deliver more empty shelves for consumers, more carnage to our food and fishing sectors and more chaos to the people of Northern Ireland, the eternal sunshine of our international trade secretary’s spotless mind continues to deliver more doses of what seems like good news for faithful Leavers.
“Our apples are now on their way to India for the first time in 50 years, thanks to the Enhanced Trade Partnership,” she tweeted last Saturday, a couple of days after declaring that “Today the UK signed the most advanced trade deal that Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have ever agreed. This will slash tariffs (and) cut red tape.”
With results like that, it’s no wonder Truss continues to top the Conservative Home party members’ satisfaction rating, making her easily their most popular Cabinet member, ahead of Rishi Sunak, Dominic Raab (really?) and David Frost (time for drug testing to be introduced in this poll, surely).
Yet examine her claims in detail and, as lovers of acronyms would say, it all goes Truss, International Trade Secretary-up.
Britain has not been unable to export apples to India while in the EU, as Truss suggests – it has simply chosen not to. For one thing, demand in the UK far outstrips what we grow; for another Belgium managed to send 10million kilos of its apples to India in 2017 while still being part of the European Union.
As for the “most advanced trade deal that Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have ever agreed”, that “will slash tariffs (and) cut red tape”, here’s what Norwegian minister of foreign affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide says on the matter: “The agreement… does not replace the comprehensive arrangements we enjoyed under the EEA Agreement.”
A Norwegian government statement adds: “No free trade agreement will provide the same access to the UK market. Nor will it dismantle all the trade barriers that have been removed under the EEA Agreement.” The tariffs and red tape are entirely the creation of Brexit and boasting about slashing and cutting them is akin to boasting proudly about how you cleaned up your own excrement after dropping a load on your living room carpet.
Truss’ popularity will probably be undiminished by this dissembling – it’s clearly not a problem for Tory members or voters to have a proven liar as prime minister. But there are signs she now just can’t help fibbing.
At 9.13pm on Sunday she tweeted a photo of herself, showing off a fake England tattoo, with the words: “It’s coming home.” Another broken promise.
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