Boris Johnson has written publicly about Brexit — Britain’s exit from the European Union — for the first time since ruling himself out of the race to become Britain’s next Prime Minister last week.
Writing in his weekly Telegraph column, the former London Mayor says many young people in Britain — “the sort who might fast to raise money for a Third World leprosy project” — have been gripped by a kind of mass hysteria not seen since the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
Johnson points to the demonstrations across London over the weekend in support of the EU as evidence of this hysteria and argues that the demonstrations are based more on emotions than a rational assessment of the benefits of the EU.
He writes (emphasis ours):
“There is, among a section of the population, a kind of hysteria, a contagious mourning of the kind that I remember in 1997 after the death of the Princess of Wales. It is not about the EU, of course; or not solely. A great many of these protesters — like dear old [Sir Bob] Geldof — are in a state of some confusion about the EU and what it does.”
“It is not, as he says, a “free trade area”; if only it were. It is a vast and convoluted exercise in trying to create a federal union — a new political construction based in Brussels. But, as I say, I don’t believe that it is psychologically credible to imagine young people chanting hysterically in favour of Brussels bureaucrats. The whole protest is not about the EU project, per se; it is about them — their own fears and anxieties that are now being projected on to Brexit.”
Johnson blames the current government for this, saying “young people are experiencing the last psychological tremors of Project Fear — perhaps the most thoroughgoing government attempt to manipulate public opinion since the run-up to the Iraq War.”
‘Project Fear’ was the name given to the Remain Campaign by rivals Vote Leave. Leave campaigners argued that warnings of economic recession in the wake of a Brexit and other doom-laden warnings were simply scaremongering.
Many Leave campaigners including Johnson himself have been attacked for appearing to not have a credible plan of how Britain should progress now that people have voted for a Brexit.
But Johnson says this is the responsibility of the Government, writing:
“It was wrong of the Government to offer the public a binary choice on the EU without being willing — in the event that people voted Leave — to explain how this can be made to work in the interests of the UK and Europe. We cannot wait until mid-September, and a new PM.”
David Cameron announced his resignation in the wake of the referendum result and the Tory Party are currently searching for a new leader who will be Prime Minister. Cameron has said he will leave it to his successor to trigger Article 50, the piece of EU legislation that begins the two-year exit process. That means the nation is trapped in limbo until a new person is elected by the Tories.
Johnson sets out 5 “basic truths” that he says should be taken into account when thinking about the Brexit future. They are:
- There is no risk whatever to the status of the EU nationals now resident and welcome in the UK, and indeed immigration will continue — but in a way that is controlled, thereby neutralising the extremists.
- It is overwhelmingly in the economic interests of the other EU countries to do a free-trade deal, with zero tariffs and quotas, while we extricate ourselves from the EU law-making system.
- We can do free-trade deals with economies round the world, many of which are already applying.
- We can supply leadership in Europe on security and other matters, but at an intergovernmental level.
- The future is very bright indeed. That’s what Geldof should be chanting.
The points are pretty vague and some points may prove to be false. While Johnson asserts that EU nationals now resident in the UK can stay, Theresa May, the current front-runner to become the next PM, has refused to rule out the deportation of EU nationals if she becomes leader.
Johnson was the front-runner to succeed Cameron as Prime Minister until his close Brexit ally Michael Gove sabotaged Johnson’s campaign by announcing he intended to run because he felt Johnson “cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”
Multiple MPs who had pledged to support Johnson defected to back Gove in the wake of the announcement and Johnson was forced to rule himself out of the race at the event that was intended to be his campaign launch.
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