Boris Johnson may wish to bring Britain ‘out and into the world’ – but after Brexit, it’s already seen enough

The prime minister is pushing forward with his ‘Global Britain’ drive. Trouble is, he’s the only one still labouring under this illusory architecture

Tom Peck
Monday 03 February 2020 17:36 GMT
Boris Johnson Says UK Wants A Free Trade Agreement 'Similar To Canada's'

Boris Johnson is not the first politician to book a wonderfully ornate room in which to give a speech and then obliterate the great art on show with a towering bland backdrop.

But on this occasion, it was just as well. Indeed, it may even have been the organisers who insisted on it. The Painted Hall at Greenwich Naval Observatory is known as Britain’s Sistine Chapel, and but for a strategically placed fifteen foot high piece of plasterboard in Tory blue, it may not have survived the tornado of slurry the prime minister launched at it.

This, sadly, is the way of things now. For six months leading up to the election, some of us tried to methodically point out how each and every sound that exited the prime minister’s lips was a lie. It ended with a thumping parliamentary majority. So he can hardly be blamed for carrying on with more of the same, not least as now, no one can stop him.

The Painted Hall, is, we are told, famous for its use of “illusionistic architecture and steep perspective” and good grief, never more so than on Britain’s first Monday morning outside of the European Union in 40-odd years.

Brexit has happened now. We are meant to be moving on. Having to point out, yet again, that claiming to be a champion of free trade while needlessly dragging the country out of the world’s biggest free trade zone, has a very 2016-2019 vibe about it.

“Free trade is being choked,” the prime minister warned, in hushed terms. “And that is no fault of the people, that’s no fault of individual consumers, I am afraid it is the politicians who are failing to lead.”

That is what you might call steep perspective. It is, as ever, painful to have to state that as these words were said, the UK government is issuing instructions on how to cope with exporting goods to the EU from next year, the point after our own government has placed massive non-tariff barriers in their way.

And that, Johnson is absolutely right about, is no fault of the people. In 2016, the people were not asked and did not express any kind of view on, say, leaving the single market and the customs union. We must again point out that several of the most Hard Brexiteer MPs there are, one Nadine Dorries, for example, have freely admitted that when they voted Leave three and a half years ago, they wanted to stay in the single market.

All around the world, the “mercantilists and protectionists” that Johnson warned against see a new best friend in the UK. John Bolton loves Britain. So does Marine le Pen.

Of course, this is all part of the big “Global Britain” drive. The “out and into the world” stuff. The arguments that Dominic Cummings rightly jettisoned from the 2016 campaign because he knew they’d lose, just like they did in 1975, and replacing them with what he knew would work – namely lies about the EU flooding Britain with Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

“Out and into the world.” Trouble is, the world has already seen enough. Only Britain and its prime minister are still labouring under the illusional architecture it has built for itself.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in