Boris Johnson appeared to struggle on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning in what many regarded to be his first major appearance as the leading figure for the campaign to leave the EU.
Two weeks after he announced he would be supporting the Brexit campaign, the London Mayor showed flashes of what has made him one of the most popular politicians in Britain – describing in lengthy terms how the EU was a “jail where the jailor has accidentally left the door open”.
But Mr Johnson also failed to answer many questions head-on, and when he actively tried to take over control of the direction of the interview, the former journalist had to be reminded who was in charge.
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
As Mr Marr tried again to cut through the Tory MP’s effusive style, saying “we do need to move on as we have a lot to cover”, Mr Johnson said: “Well, I’m going to tell you what I’m going to cover.”
The host replied: “I get to ask the questions here, it’s not the Boris Johnson show, it’s the Andrew Marr Show.”
Marr - Let's move on from tipper trucks just for a second. We do need to move on. I've got a lot to cover.
Johnson - Well, I'm gonna tell you what I'm gonna cover.
Marr - No! Guess what this is not the Boris Johnson show, this is the Andrew Marr show. I get to ask the questions.
Johnson - Right... You have sovereignty!
Marr - Thank you. I have complete sovereignty of this programme.
Johnson - Unlike the UK!
Marr - *laughs* I won't go down that [route].
“You have complete sovereignty,” Mr Johnson conceded. “… unlike the UK.”
The exchange was characteristic of an interview where Mr Johnson tried to focus on his issues with the single market and the sovereignty battle between the EU and the UK.
But in the middle of it all he did manage to offer up the occasional direct answer.
Mr Marr established that the moment Mr Johnson decided to back Brexit was when he received a letter from the Government’s lawyers “exploding” plans he was involved in to rewrite reforms on British sovereignty, saying they couldn’t possibly work in tandem with EU treaties.
And asked if he was backing leaving the EU in order to become the next Prime Minister, Mr Johnson briefly obfuscated before giving his clearest answer of the entire morning.
“Certainly not,” he said. “We have a wonderful Prime Minister, and to the best of my knowledge there is not a single European leader who has had to step down because of a referendum, on Europe or not.
"The whole thing is cobblers, you are just trying to personalise it to make it more interesting for viewers,” he added. “I want to talk about…”
Mr Johnson’s – and Mr Marr’s – performances received a mixture of response on social media.
Many apparently pro-Brexit viewers accused the host of displaying “BBC bias” by excessively interrupting Mr Johnson’s answers.
But others suggested he had “failed his audition to be lead spokesman for Leave”, while Piers Morgan observed: “People criticising Marr for 'constantly interrupting' Boris need to understand that if he didn't, Mr Johnson would never stop talking.”