Am I just getting cynical in my old age, or was the announcement last night of the new social gathering measures a little suspicious in timing?

A short blog.

I do genuinely believe the new measures are necessary (hopefully martial arts classes are covered by the team sport exemption!!), and were probably in the works by the civil servants.

But by releasing it at 10pm last night, not taking effect until Monday, and with very few backing details, suggests it was released early or prematurely. Very different from the press statements at teatime in the past.

It also (once again) bypasses former convention of announcements being brought to the House of Commons first. And this time the Govt can’t claim it’s an emergency, as it doesn’t go into effect from Monday. So why not announce today, instead of Tuesday night?

Some might argue “it’s to give businesses and people certainty and time”. But as no details were released (what’s the new expectations on pubs & restaurants? What sports clubs are exempt? What about support groups?) there’s virtually no benefit to last night’s announcement.

Surely it wasn’t just done to distract from the news that Boris wants to annul part of the EU withdrawal treaty, a move Brandon Lewis admits “breaks international law”? (“Boris Johnson presses ahead with new laws to ‘annul’ parts of Brexit deal”, Sky News.)

Announcing it at 10pm certainly has the effect of changing today’s news cycle to focus on the new rules (or lack thereof) rather than digging deeper into the Internal Market Bill & that the head of the government legal service, Jonathan Jones, quit apparently over the issue.

The Govt may argue that there’s a reason for the Internal Market Bill, it’s place within the Brexit negotiations, & that contingency measures are “necessary”. But if the new social gathering rules are a deliberate attempt to “move the issue on”, it’s a national disgrace.

Breaking of an international treaty, which the withdrawal agreement undoubtedly is, is a HUGE action for a government to take, no matter how justified it might think it is, as it risks damaging U.K. reputation and our good faith in other treaties and expecting other counties to uphold the rule of law.

Especially at a time where we need international cooperation due to Covid-19, and where we need to negotiate numerous trade deals at pace, the Internal Market Bill has wide implications that deserve thorough debate. Not to be buried in the bottom of a news cycle because it’s uncomfortable for them.

The EU has been very open with its member states on aims and progress of the negotiations. We deserve the same from our own elected officials. After all, isn’t that “taking back control”?