Boris “a real embarrassment” says William Wallace

Our Lib Dem Peer and regular LDV contributor William Wallace is an Emeritus Professor in International Relations. He is more qualified than most people to comment on foreign policy. In the Lords debate on the EU Withdrawal on Monday, he was incredibly critical about the Foreign Secretary – and that was before Boris’s bizarre comparison of the congestion charge boundary to the Irish border after Brexit.

Here’s the whole of that speech:

It is clear that we will have to return to this at the next stage if the Government do not provide any more detail. First, on the role of the Lords in considering Bills such as this, the noble Baroness said—as the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, said on a couple of occasions—that this is a largely mechanical Bill. Well, it is a mechanical Bill that gives very wide discretion to the Government to design our future relationship with our most important security, political and economic partners. So a House that concerns itself not with whether the principle of the Bill is correct but with the detail is entirely in accord with its role to ask for detail on what that discretion will be used for. It would be easier to accept that this is a mechanical Bill and not to raise these difficult questions one after another if we had some confidence that the Government actually know what they want in these areas. Part of our problem is that many of us have no such confidence. I do not think that the Foreign Secretary has a clue about what he wants by way of a future relationship with Europe: I doubt whether he has really thought about it for more than three or four minutes. He is too busy thinking about the next anecdote he is going to tell or the next joke he is going to make. His speech last week was a disgrace for a Foreign Secretary: the Prime Minister’s was of an entirely different quality. For a Conservative Party that has always prided itself on its commitment to a strong foreign policy, it must be a real embarrassment that we still have someone in place who is incapable of giving a serious speech on foreign policy. So this House is fulfilling its proper role in asking for detail on the implications of the Bill.

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  • ” a real embarrassment”

    I’m intrigued, apart from the chattering classes with a political axe to grind, who exactly is embarrassed by Boris Johnson. He doesn’t embarass most of the people I talk to, who actually believe he is more in tune with the public mood than the ’embarrassed@

    He doesn’t embarass me anywhere near as much as the craven defeatism about our ability to exist as an independent nation, that is evidenced here and elsewhere on a daily basis.

    Boris made a perfectly valid point, if the congestion charge system can deal with millions of vehicles seamlessly using technologies such as ANPR in London, then how difficult using the same technology would it be to deal with numbers that are a fraction of the traffic through London. Customs declarations at point of origin, would presumably be linked with ANPR on point of entry, and tariffs charged. This is not rocket science, it is not even difficult in technological terms. It will of course not stop the determined criminal who is happy to break the law, anymore than the current system works across Ireland works now, when there is an economic advantage to trade certain goods across the border.

  • Great speech from William but look at what followed. Viscount Hailsham (Conservative) laid into Mrs May and her Cabinet, condemning the damage they are inflicting on the country. He used much more intemperate language than that of Lord Wallace – presumably because he has no sense of humour so far as Theresa and Boris are concerned!

  • John McHugo
    “…if Boris wants Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to be as close as two London boroughs after Brexit,”

    He didn’t make anything like that kind of comparison.

    I used the exact same ‘Congestion Charge’ analogy some 3 weeks ago here on an LDV thread, and the point I, and he, is making, is that the same technology is adaptable to being utilized as an invisible [frictionless], monitor of traffic carrying cargo which is pre-defined and verified, logged for a ‘to-from’ transit, and perfectly capable of allocating a tariff cost in the same manner that it can allocate a congestion charge as you enter London.

    If the ‘Congestion Charge’ analogy somehow, bothers your frail sensibilities, then think instead of the ‘Smart Motorways’ system which is being implemented across much of the UK roadways?.
    These newer traffic monitoring systems with intelligent networked software connections are nothing like the [dumb], stand-alone roadside speed cameras we’ve been used to. The sophistication behind these newer networked cameras have computational capabilities more that capable of managing frictionless traffic between a Southern and Northern Ireland. Just because you might be unaware of how a technology works, it’s foolish to jump to the conclusion ‘it can’t be done’.

    The Irish customs border problem is only a problem in the minds of those belligerent politicians who are technologically ignorant of the possibilities, or more likely, mischievously intent on making it a problem, as a ruse to try to halt Brexit?

  • Arnold Kiel 28th Feb '18 - 6:32pm

    John McHugo,

    very well said.

    And we should not overlook the bigger picture: A PM that is so provincial, awkward, and timid on the international stage (her primary personal Brexit motivation, IMO) that she does not mind Britain’s plummeting standing on the world stage being compounded by the most unsuited foreign secretary in history. This is how she represents her “global Britain”: a shy, provincial woman from Maidenhead and a failed commentator/mayor, both unable to build relationships with world leaders. Not to forget: a medical doctor, multiple expense-, travel-, and security-rule-violator as the Kingdom’s chief trade negotiator.

  • @ Arnold Kiel I’m sorry, much as I am opposed to her policies, I find your comments about Mrs. May her extremely personal and unworthy. I could retaliate by saying that your own Mrs. Merkel is clinging on to power by her finger nails. I am as opposed to your personal comments on Mrs May as I am to some of the personal comments about Mr Corbyn on LDV.

    Brexit is far too important to stoop to that sort of level. You should do better.

  • Arnold Kiel 28th Feb '18 - 8:14pm

    Thank you, Martin.

    David Raw, I thought that I had linked her personality-deficiencies sufficiently to her failure at the “far too important” task at hand to make them permissible aspects of a debate about Britain’s catastrophic figure on the world stage since June 2016, and, in a worst case, for years to come. I would never interpret your correct but not very enlightening comment about Mrs. Merkel (who is not my own) as retaliation.

  • I think I’d struggle to find anyone in the North who thinks Maidenhead is provincial but I think I know what Arnold means! Perhaps a better p-word would be “pygmies” but that may be an insult to the dimensionally challenged.

  • Most of this debate is irrelevant. The question is not whether people can dream up ideas on how they would manage the Irish border, it is how the U.K. government intend to manage it. They have not said. The question is not whether people can dream up ideas for a better arrangement with the rest of Europe. The question is what is the U.K. government proposing. The fact is that we are leaving the EU. The rest of Europe has made its position clear. The U.K. government has not.
    Thus is the U.K. government failing the whole nation.

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