EU referendum: Boris Johnson accused of 'dishonest gymnastics' over TTIP U-turn

Churchill's grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, says it demonstrated the former Mayor of London's 'complete lack of credibility and coherence' on Europe

Caroline Mortimer
Monday 16 May 2016 10:30
Boris Johnson had previously called the TTIP trade agreement 'Churchillian' in its brilliance
Boris Johnson had previously called the TTIP trade agreement 'Churchillian' in its brilliance

The grandson of Winston Churchill has accused Boris Johnson of “fundamentally dishonest gymnastics” for reversing his position on the planned multibillion-pound TTIP trade agreement between the US and the EU.

The former Mayor of London had previously called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership “Churchillian” in its brilliance.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph in 2014, he said the deal was a “great project” that is “altogether unsordid”.

He wrote: “It is Churchillian in that it builds transatlantic links, it is all about free trade, and it brings Britain and Europe closer to America. The idea is to create a gigantic free-trade zone between the EU and the US … There is absolutely nothing not to like about the TTIP”.

He said those opposed to it were “leftwing misery guts anti-globalisation campaigners”.

He also dismissed the fear that the NHS would be vulnerable to competition from US firms - a stance which is now the official position of Vote Leave.

But since joining the Brexit campaign, Mr Johnson has changed his tune.

Comparing the EU to a “pantomime horse” in a speech last week, he said waiting for all 28 member countries to agree won a joint position to negotiate with was slowing down the process.

He said “As for the argument that we need the muscle of EU membership if we are to do trade deals – well, as I say, at the results after 42 years of membership, the EU has done trade deals with the Palestinian Authority and San Marino. Bravo.

“But it has failed to conclude agreements with India, China or even America.

“Why? Because negotiating on behalf of the EU is like trying to ride a vast pantomime horse, with 28 people blindly pulling in different directions.”

He said in recent years the TTIP negotiations had been stalled in part by Greek feta manufacturers and the French film industry.

Sir Nicholas Soames, the MP for Mid Sussex, told the Observer said Mr Johnson’s Brexit-inspired U-turn was “typical of Boris’ now regular inconsistencies”.

Sir Nicholas Soames said the U-turn was 'typical of Boris’ now regular inconsistencies' 

The staunch Europhile said: “It is another example of Boris’s complete lack of credibility and coherence on this very important transaction.

“People will simply not understand this fundamentally dishonest gymnastics.”

The Observer reported that friends of Mr Johnson said he is still privately in favour of the deal but he just thought it would be easier for the UK to achieve on its own without the EU.

One said: “What he’s attacking is the fact that the vested interests of member countries prevent any progress towards a TTIP deal. If the UK votes to leave the EU, we can do our own trade deal with the US free from member state interference.”

Mr Johnson has been accused by many commentators on both sides of the divide of only backing the Leave campaign to improve his chances of becoming the next leader of the Conservative party.

This is due to the seeming pro-Europe stances he has taken in the past in his columns and public speeches.

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