LONDON – Friends of Boris Johnson have been briefing journalists that he is worried about Britain drifting towards a Norway-style Brexit inside the single market.
According to multiple reports, Johnson fears Theresa May is pushing Britain towards a soft Brexit in which we essentially retain all current ties to the EU. The foreign secretary warned friends that doing do so would be “mad.”
However, this has not always been his position. In fact far from it.
Despite what he says now, Johnson was one of the leading defenders of Britain staying inside the single market just a few short years ago.
Watch Boris calling for Britain to stay in the single market
Boris Johnson speaking before the referendum: "I would vote to stay in the single market. I'm in favour of the single market." pic.twitter.com/UCeifCf0dC
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) October 2, 2016
“I would vote to stay in the single market,” Johnson told Sky News in 2013.
“I’m in favour of the single market. I want us to be able to trade freely with our European friends and partners.”
Staying in the Single Market is “essential and deliverable”
In 2012, Johnson called for a referendum on staying in a reformed EU, which was “boiled down” to the single market.
“We could construct a relationship with the EU that more closely resembled that of Norway or Switzerland – except that we would be inside the single market council, and able to shape legislation” Johnson said.
“If we did not have [the EU] we would have to invent it”
Despite his current reputation for Euroscepticism, Johnson’s pro-European leanings have actually been long-running.
In 2003 he told the House of Commons that: “I am not by any means an ultra-Eurosceptic. In some ways, I am a bit of a fan of the European Union. If we did not have one, we would invent something like it.
The whole speech is worth a read, in particular the section where Johnson strongly backs Turkey joining the EU, saying those opposing it were “foolish”
Johnson’s leave campaign later majored on raising fears about Turkey joining the group.
Britain “benefits” from the single market
Johnson again backed a close single market relationship with the EU in 2013.
“Personally, I would like to stay in the single market,” he said during a visit to Paris.
“We need to stay in the council of ministers of the internal market. In my view, the British have done good things for Europe.”
He added: “We have the free movement of goods meaning French companies can buy important things like infrastructure in the UK and we benefit.”
Boris allegedly never wanted to leave the EU
Pictures of Johnson looking shell-shocked alongside fellow Leave campaigners once the referendum result came in led many people to believe that the result was not what the former London mayor had hoped for.
In fact shortly after these pictures were taken, friends of Johnson told me that they believed he had never really wanted to leave the EU, with one long-term ally telling me that the decision to back the Leave campaign had been purely about his career.
As one friend of Johnson told me, “It was all about the leadership.”
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