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Matthew O’Toole sits in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the Social Democratic and Labour Party and is the former chief press officer for Brexit in No. 10 Downing Street.
It was once said that before interviews, the notorious BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman asked himself a profane question about why politicians in front of him insisted on lying. The people of Northern Ireland could be forgiven for asking the same question about Boris Johnson and his government. The lying has not been incidental or unintended, but deliberate and inherent in its approach to Northern Ireland and Brexit. They have lied not just to people and political parties here, but lied about them.
But nothing could have prepared people for the Internal Market Bill now being debated in the Commons. The bill may end up going down as one of the most disreputable and damaging pieces of legislation ever proposed at Westminster.
There has been much talk about whether and how the bill undermines or directly breaches the Good Friday Agreement in either letter or spirit. The answer is: It does all of this. By resiling from the Ireland protocol contained in the withdrawal treaty signed with the EU, it jeopardizes all the protections against a hardened border between the north and south.
But more broadly, along with the entire project of hard Brexit, it acts as an assault on the nervous system of the settlement in Northern Ireland.
To say trust in the British government has been undermined would be akin to saying trust in Donald Trump’s golf scores or property valuations has been debased.