'Ask Tommie' - Boris Johnson urges RTÉ's Tommie Gorman to verify his 'Euro scepticism'
Boris Johnson has rejected allegations that he has 'flip-flopped' in his views on the European Union, and urged RTÉ journalist Tommie Gorman to verify that he has always been 'sceptical about the EU'.
At a conference in Dublin, Mr Johnson who was a leading light in the successful 'Leave' campaign in 2016, was challenged about his very strong pro-EU statements before the Brexit referendum.
The conference host, RTÉ news presenter Bryan Dobson, pointed to comments by the former UK foreign minister on BBC radio and television in 2012, when he strongly backed the UK staying within the EU, and availing of its single market free trade and tariff-free customs union membership.
Mr Johnson said he had been a news correspondent, based in Brussels from 1988 until 1995. He said he was “quite idealistic” about the then-European Community at the start of his work – but he gradually became “very sceptical” about it, especially its moves towards political union.
Bryan Dobson challenged this saying he had defended the UK’s EU membership on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show in 2012, and later on BBC Radio 5 Live.
The RTÉ presenter of 'Morning Ireland' said: “You changed your mind.”
Mr Johnson pointed out that RTÉ’s Tommie Gorman was a correspondent in Brussels during his own time there.
“Ask Tommie whether I was ever a Euro enthusiast?” he retorted to Mr Gorman’s colleague.
The two-time London Mayor again insisted that nobody wanted a 'hard border' in Ireland. He said customs controls after Brexit are entirely a matter for Ireland.
Mr Johnson said World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules – risking hefty tariffs on Irish exports to Britain – did not have to kick in even if the UK quits the EU without a deal in 11 weeks time, on March 29.
Bryan Dobson asked about his recent statement that a no-deal Brexit was the "closest thing" to what UK voters opted for in the June 2016.
Mr Johnson said he believed the WTO regime did not have to automatically kick in after Brexit.
He said both the EU and UK could “take a step back” and maintain things as they are for a time before then working out a new regime based on the EU-Canada trade deal.
Mr Johnson was also asked about his dramatic resignation from Theresa May’s cabinet in July last year. Bryan Dobson said he had congratulated his boss about the deal – involving the border backstop in December 2017 – and took seven months to change his mind.
The former foreign minister said he had naively believed he could “change things from within.” But he had always argued strenuously against the backstop which guarantees no hard border in Ireland.