K E Y P O I N T S
Boris Johnson said Brexit was ‘not a V-sign from the cliffs of Dover’ or ‘some reactionary Faragist concept’ but ‘the great liberal project of the age’.
The foreign secretary said he understood ‘fears’ and ‘noble sentiments’ of those who voted ‘Remain’.
But warned reversing the referendum result would be a ‘betrayal’ and a second vote would cause ‘another year of turmoil’.
He notably refused to rule our resigning from Cabinet this year if he did not get the type of Brexit he wanted. ‘We’re all very lucky to serve,’ he said.
In what could been seen as a message to some Cabinet colleagues, he said it would be ‘absurd’ for the UK to submit itself to EU rules after Brexit.
Johnson said the economic argument for staying inside the customs union and single market was ‘nothing like as conspicuous or irrefutable’ as many Tory MPs claim.
He denied he was responsible for dividing the country. ‘I think I have always been extremely moderate in my language and loving and caring,’ he said.
Johnson peppered speech with ‘jokes’ including about Thai sex tourism, dogging, vacuum cleaners and carrots.
S N A P V E R D I C T
From Paul Waugh
Theresa May is giving up crisps for Lent, but today Boris Johnson made clear he’s not giving up his famous Brexit cake-and-eating-it habit. Or his talent for self-promotion.
For all the Valentine’s Day hype about wooing Remainers, his words today seemed more aimed at warning the PM that he wants a ‘clean Brexit’. And when he refused to rule out quitting the Cabinet if May didn’t agree with him, the Foreign Secretary was deploying the real leverage he knows few others in Government possess.
In many ways the speech was classic Boris: nicely-turned journalistic phrasing, Latin references, off-colour jokes (he ad-libbed about ‘dogging’ and the Thai sex trade) – and a glaring lack of detail. But his final words in the Q&A – “people’s feelings matter” – captured just why his pitch to Britons proved so seductive in 2016. When faced with the desiccated economic warnings of the Remain camp, millions preferred Boris’ emotion.
His main theme was that the British disease is self-deprecation, even though in the same breath he pointed out people “hail me in the street with cheery four letter epithets”. He added: “at least they know roughly who I am”. And that’s really what today was about, reminding the public and the PM he was still a big player. The exact shape of the Brexit we end up with will be determined by mutual self-interest of the UK and EU. The exact shape of this Tory Government will be decided by just how much Boris wants to promote his own.
R E M A I N E R R E A C T I O N
W E I R D E S T M O M E N T
Boris Johnson was asked “where is the clarity” from government on its Brexit plan. “The carrot?” a confused foreign secretary replied.
W H A T N E X T
Johnson’s was the first of several planned by senior cabinet ministers designed to put “meat on the bones” of the government’s Brexit pan.
It will be followed on Saturday by Theresa May detailing the “security partnership” the UK wants to maintain with the EU.
Brexit Secretary David Davis and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will also set out their agendas,
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, who backed Remain in the referendum, will also deliver a speech.
May will then round off the process in an address setting out how she sees the overall relationship between Britain and Brussels after withdrawal.
However ‘Remain’ voting Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd are not due to give speeches.