Sunday 11 December 2016

My Remain article just a parody, claims Johnson

Arj Singh

Published 17/10/2016 | 02:30

US Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed make a joint statement at Lancaster House, in London. Photo: Justin Tallis
US Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed make a joint statement at Lancaster House, in London. Photo: Justin Tallis

Boris Johnson has claimed his secret newspaper column in which he backed staying in the EU was "semi-parodic" but admitted he was "wrestling" with whether to back Brexit.

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The Foreign Secretary wrote the unpublished Remain-backing article in February, only two days before shocking David Cameron by revealing he would be campaigning for Brexit in the referendum.

Mr Johnson is now seen as a backer of a 'hard Brexit', this week insisting the UK can get a trade deal that is "of greater value" to the economy than access to the EU single market, which he described as an "increasingly useless" concept.

But in the pro-EU article, revealed in a new book and published in 'The Sunday Times', he supported membership of the free-trade zone.

He also said Brexit would cause an "economic shock" and could lead to the "break-up" of the UK in the article published in 'All Out War', by the newspaper's political editor, Tim Shipman.

But Mr Johnson said today that after writing the article it was "blindingly obvious" he should back Brexit.

"Everybody was trying to make up their minds about whether or not to leave the EU, and it is perfectly true that back in February I was wrestling with it, like I think a lot of people in this country, and I wrote a long piece which came down overwhelmingly in favour of leaving," he said.

"I then thought I better see if I can make the alternative case for myself, so I then wrote a sort of semi-parodic article in the opposite sense, which has mysteriously found its way into the paper this morning - because I think I might have sent it to a friend.

"But I set them side by side and it was blindingly obvious what the right thing to do was, and I think the people made the right decision. They voted very substantially to leave the European Union, that is what we're going to do and we're going to make a great success of it."

In his article, Mr Johnson suggested contributions to the EU budget were a price worth paying for single market access.

"This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms," he wrote.

"The membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?"

On the eve of the June referendum, Mr Johnson said the alternative view "just didn't make sense" because it was based on putting party loyalty ahead of his desire to get the UK out of the EU. He said as soon as he made his decision he "knew it was right".

On Saturday, sources close to the Foreign Secretary repeated that he wrote the article for the sole purpose of trying to articulate in his mind whether there was any merit in the Remain argument, and dismissed it out of hand as soon as he finished.

In the article, Mr Johnson warned of a Brexit shock to the economy and the potential break-up of the UK if Scotland voted overwhelmingly to Remain, which it did by 62pc-38pc.

Since the vote to leave, sterling has fallen to historic lows.

Irish Independent

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