If that jars slightly, that’s because it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. But this is the state of politics in the UK post-Brexit: leading politicians spouting whatever opinion seemingly comes into their heads so long as it has a short-term benefit for their own popularity. And if that clashes with the long-term effects on our country? Well, the British public will just have to like it or lump it.
Until recently, former Mayor of London and current Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson penned a weekly column for The Telegraph.
In one particular column drafted in February this year, Johnson wrote that staying in the EU would be a “boon for the world,” that the free trade zone we’re now very likely to come out of is “a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms,” and that the EU membership fee seemed “rather small for all that access”.
He asked: “Why are we so determined to turn our backs on it?” But turn his back Johnson did, stubbornly, confidently and publicly.
The article has now been published by The Sunday Times for everyone to see, including those who were swayed by Johnson’s position of influence and his promises that a move to leave the EU would be to Britain’s advantage.
Johnson has defended his column on Sky News, displaying a very confused grasp of political satire for someone so familiar with Have I Got News For You as he described it as “semi-parodic”.
He said the column was a way for him to make alternative cases as he wrestled with which side to take in the run-up to the referendum. But these weren’t scribbles he made in his diary in an effort to align his own personal conflicts; this was a piece of writing set to be published to an audience of thousands of confused voters.
Johnson said in the column that a vote for Brexit could lead to “economic shock”. And those predictions proved correct: the pound has plunged to record lows against dollar and the euro, and keeps falling.
However, “pro-Brexit Johnson” made a pretty good job of convincing us to the contrary. He told the Treasury select committee in March this year that the EU would result in “no economic shock” at all to Britain.
In his not-so-secret column, Johnson also predicted that Scotland would call for another independence referendum. Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has drawn up plans for exactly this if Britain leaves the single market.
He also warned of the “Putin factor,” and said, “We don’t want to do anything to encourage more shirtless swaggering from the Russian leader, not in the Middle East, not anywhere.”
Last week, Johnson encouraged campaigners to protest outside of the Russian embassy in London, following the country’s alleged actions during the ceasefire in Syria.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
The pro-EU Johnson wrote in his column: "Shut your eyes. Hold your breath. Think of Britain. Think of the rest of the EU. Think of the future.
"Think of the desire of your children and your grandchildren to live and work in other European countries; to sell things there, to make friends and perhaps to find partners there.”
This is impressively heartfelt for someone who apparently didn’t believe the words he was writing.
No one knows the difference a pro-EU Johnson could have made. But this is a particularly strange instance of someone at best flip-flopping between ideas and rhetoric, and at worst disregarding the needs of his own country in order to further his career.
The wealthy and privileged Johnson will barely feel the plummeting pound, and no doubt the stress felt by small business owners across Britain hasn’t kept him awake at night, like it has so many others.
Johnson’s pro-EU argument will only fuel worries that we have landed in a “post-truth” era for politics. Or maybe it won’t – I’m only writing this to make the opposite case for what I actually believe in.Reuse content