Just like the kipper he waved around, Boris Johnson has stitched us up with false claims about EU safety rules

Sean O'Grady

It is highly appropriate, not to say ironic, that this latest of a long and depressing line of Boris Johnson’s amusing European “stories”, demonstrated by holding a kipper up at a hustings to make a point about EU safety rules, turns out be entirely fictional.

No matter what the angry man on the Isle of Man may have thought about the packaging he is required to use to transport his smoked herring, the rules are Made in Britain, so to speak. They are all about food safety, and maintaining the integrity of the kipper as the nation’s breakfast fish of choice (as featured in the famous episode of Fawlty Towers entitled “The Kipper and the Corpse”).

So, once again, Johnson’s creative approach to the truth leaves him looking as two-faced as the kippers he was waving aloft in the final Tory hustings event. His flair for publicity is as lively as ever.

We should remind ourselves that he once told readers of The Daily Telegraph, when he was the newspaper’s Brussels correspondent, that a problem with asbestos meant that the European Union’s grandiose Brussels headquarters building, the Berlaymont, would have to be “blown up”.

A quarter of a century on, it is still standing and still, no doubt, hatching plans to imprison greengrocers selling carrots by the pound, to outlaw bent bananas and reclassify snails as fish – though in reality these dastardly schemes took place only in Johnson’s imagination.

But even were it true that pettifogging Eurocrats had imposed an intolerable burden upon the venerable smoked fish houses of the Isle of Man (technically not even a member of the EU), we, and the kippermen and kipperwomen of Peel and Port Erin, should reflect upon the economics of the kipper.

No different to Welsh lamb, Red Leicester or salmon from Scotland, British and crown dependency kippers have to be exported to the European Union with the greatest of ease, with as little impediment and friction as possible, for optimal taste.

The loss of a market of the size and prosperity as the European Union far outweighs any number of silly regulations. Every jurisdiction on earth has its own eccentric little ways, the sort of thing that attracts the attention of journalists and propagandists such as Johnson.

They make for a good page five lead, or the germ of some columnal flight of fancy, or a nice bit of bait for web traffic. All fine. They do not though, form the basis of an economic policy.

Because it is not fact. The Great Kipper Scandal of 2019 is no more a reality than supposing that everyone on the Isle of Man, like their famous emblem, has got three legs. You can be sure, though, that if Johnson thought that to say it would get him into No 10, he would claim that they did. Then he would double down by adding that Ursula von der Leyen was plotting to make Manx cats wear artificial tails in an effort to harmonise them with fictional varieties from Bavaria, Silesia and Wallachia, as required by the latest EU Directive MO-66Y (2019): Euro-cats invented by Eurocrats.

See how easy it is?