Boris Johnson speech: Foreign Secretary attacks ‘gloomadon-poppers’ predicting grim post-Brexit future

Britain will be ‘liberated to be more active on the world stage’, Mr Johnson told the Conservative conference

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 02 October 2016 18:29 BST
Boris Johnson delivers his speech during the Constervative Conference in Birmingham
Boris Johnson delivers his speech during the Constervative Conference in Birmingham

Boris Johnson claimed Brexit will free Britain to be “more active on the world stage than ever before”, in a typically joke-heavy conference speech.

The Foreign Secretary delighted the Tory faithful with an attack on the “gloomadon-poppers” who still predicted a grim future after Britain’s departure from the EU.

Instead, Mr Johnson argued, that exit would see Britain “liberated” to punch its weight in foreign affairs, as well as free to strike free trade deals with countries around the world.

He told the conference: “I have to tell any lingering gloomadon-poppers that never once have I felt that this country would be in any way disadvantaged by extricating ourselves from the EU treaties.

“Indeed, there are some ways in which we will be liberated to be more active on the world stage than ever before – because we are not leaving Europe.

“We will remain committed to all kinds of European cooperation, at an intergovernmental level – whether it is maintaining sanctions against Russia for what is happening in Ukraine, or sending our Navy to help the Italians stem the migrant flow through the central Mediterranean.

“But we will also be able to speak up more powerfully with our own distinctive voice leading the world as we now are, in imposing a ban on ivory, helping to save the elephant in a way that the disunited EU is unable to do.

“Or relaunching the cause of global free trade that has been stalled since the failure of the Doha round.”

Mr Johnson slipped in an attack on the BBC, even as he hailed it as “the single greatest and most effective ambassador for our culture and our values”.

He offered his praise for the corporation “no matter how infuriating and shamelessly anti-Brexit they can sometimes be”.

The Foreign Secretary also argued Britain’s hard power was “dwarfed” by the soft power that flowed from English being the most commonly-spoken language on earth.

But the former Tory leadership-hopeful also painted a grim picture of the state of the world as he accused Russia of being “complicit” in carrying out war crimes in Syria.

Mr Johnson said the UK’s hope and belief that liberal democracy could be expanded across the world had been “badly damaged” by the Iraq War.

Meanwhile, free market capitalism had been “seriously discredited by the crash of 2008, and the global suspicion of bankers”.

Likening those two issues to “punches”, Mr Johnson said: “It is partly as a result of that lack of western self-confidence – political, military, economic – that, in some material ways, the world has got less safe, more dangerous and more worrying.”

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