Hey, Anthony Mangnall MP! Are you spreading dangerous fake news?

As MP for Totnes, your constituency includes the fishing town of Brixham, where some of the most valuable catches of shellfish are landed and exported to the EU. The fishermen there must be as angry about the Brexit deal as those up the coast in West Bay. Or the guys in Scotland, who are going broke and threatening to dump rotten fish outside the Palace of Westminster. I imagine you, as a champion of getting Brexit done and of Johnson’s oven ready deal, are feeling the heat a bit. Maybe you feel stirring up a bit of fresh hatred against the EU will get you out of your hole.

If the events of the last ten days have taught you anything, it should be that escalating tension through wild and unsubstantiated claims is really not a wise thing for anyone to do, least of all a sitting MP. But you have not learned that lesson, seemingly, because you saw fit to tweet this:

“I have heard…” “I have heard…” Hmm. You’ve heard, but you can provide no proof. You also appear to be a bit confused as to the role of a customs agent in an EU context. Perhaps you are thinking of the sort of customs agent Donald Trump might run up against…enforcers of customs laws. These officers are armed with Heckler & Koch P2000 pistols chambered in. Maybe you’ve spent some time in the US?

A customs agent in the EU is a completely different creature. A professional in customs clearance, he or she represents exporters and importers and navigates them through the red tape that your Brexit deal has so kindly caused to balloon with disastrous consequences for your Brixham constituents. But do these agents pack a gun? Nah. Unlikely. They’d never get it through customs, for a start!

This is a serious matter, though. Your tweet looks awfully like a dog whistle to those desperate to apportion blame, blame which could , with justification, land on you. Shame on you! What a way for a public servant to behave!

The whole fish thing has, of course, been a fiasco from the lies at the start to the incompetence and further lies at the finish. The sense that the fishing industry has been thrown under the bus has not been helped by fishing minister Victoria Prentis revealing of her own free will that she had not read the deal terms because she was organising a nativity trail.

And then there was Johnson, batting off valid questions about the impact of the deal on fishing communities and the huge losses that were being sustained by talking about utterly unrelated issues. To be fair, that is his tactic with all awkwardly pertinent questions.

A nightmare few days for relations with the fishing communities was capped off by Jacob Rees-Mogg and his ludicrous and insulting ‘happy fish’ statement.

No doubt all this has gone down like a dodgy pint of prawns after 72 hours on a lorry in Kent. And you’re feeling the heat.

Now you should know by now what is in the deal of which Johnson is ‘aware’ but has not, in all probability, read. So you KNOW what it means to be a third country and to have left the Single Market and the Customs Union. But if you, in dereliction of your duty to your constituents, do not know, you could read this:

Fake news is the scourge of our age, Mr Mangnall. If you can substantiate your claim that some EU customs agent pulled a gun on a lorry driver, then by all means give us the facts. It will be quite some story. But if you can’t, then take that tweet down, for goodness sake and start taking ownership of the deal your government struck and its consequences.

In the meantime, I urge you to study this astute analysis of what you tweeted: