IT IS common to ignore hyphens these days, but unwise. The Free Dictionary entry for “disapply” in a search engine begins: “definition of disapply. vb , -lies , -lying or -lied formal to”. The Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, surprised the Commons on Tuesday by telling the truth: the Government’s legal tinkering this week “does break international law in a very specific and limited way. We’re taking the powers to disapply the EU law concept of direct effect. . .” The proposition alarmed MPs, among them the former Prime Minister Theresa May. Nor did the use of a neologism fool the EU negotiators, who are familiar with the current Prime Minister’s tactics of bluster and brinkmanship. They have continually expressed wonderment at the UK’s dilatoriness over negotiating a proper withdrawal package when so much harm will be caused to the economy by the lack of one.
There was talk this week about faith. Unfortunately, it was largely accusations of bad faith, as observers wondered whether the manifesto pledge of an “oven-ready” EU deal, which helped Boris Johnson swing the last General Election, was going to be disapplied. Voters, even those opposed to Brexit, assumed that the UK would remain at least connected (hyphenated?) to the markets of Continental Europe, including Ireland. Mr Johnson’s expression this week, that a no-deal Brexit would be a “good outcome”, has sparked fears that his Government is as willing to break trust as it is law. The last time he chose to act unlawfully, the Supreme Court stepped in to rein him back. This time, it appears that the only restraints with any agency are the consciences of traditional Conservative MPs.
WHEN the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, was cleared by Sir Andrew Smith’s internal inquiry of all charges against him in the summer of 2019, he must have thought that his nightmare battle to clear his name was over. But then senior figures on the college’s Governing Body, embarrassed by Sir Andrew’s findings, decreed that his full report be withheld from their colleagues. There was no offer to reimburse the Dean for the cost of defending himself, and the case that he then initiated to reclaim these costs was given as a reason to continue to hinder him in the exercising of his office. Then came the safeguarding allegations, and the C of E’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) was drawn in, like an innocent copper into a long-running domestic. This week’s solution was neat. The exoneration has got the college authorities off the Dean’s back, if temporarily; the NST can continue to maintain that it was entitled to examine the Dean’s safeguarding record; and the Dean can use the review to tell the NST, in detail, why it was not. It is hard to see, however, that the expressions of sympathy from the bishops compensate him for the nearly six months of anxiety and reputational harm that this process has caused.