- Boris Johnson delivered a speech today calling for Theresa May to implement a hard Brexit.
- The foreign secretary called for the UK to be tough on immigration and trade.
- Yet Johnson has previously argued the complete opposite on multiple occasions.
- Friends say the reversal is due to his own leadership ambitions.
LONDON – Boris Johnson today called on Theresa May to commit to a hard Brexit outside of the single market and customs union, complete with tougherimmigration rules.
The foreign secretary warned that any attempt to “frustrate” Brexit or leave Britain closely aligned to the EU after exiting, would be a “betrayal” of the vote to leave the EU.
However, what is not well known is that until he decided to join the campaign to leave the EU, Johnson took the polar opposite position on Brexit.
Far from being a committed hard Brexiteer, the foreign secretary actually had a long record as an MP and Mayor of London, of arguing for Britain to remain closely aligned with Europe.
Here are all the times that the foreign secretary has fundamentally contradicted his own arguments on Brexit.
“I am in favour of staying in the single market”
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) January 15, 2018
Johnson today said that any attempt to stay in the single market would be a “betrayal” of the vote to leave the EU. However, this was very far from his position before the referendum.
“I would vote to stay in the single market,” Johnson told Sky News in 2013.
“I’m in favour of the single market. I want us to be able to trade freely with our European friends and partners.”
“Personally, I would like to stay in the single market,” he added during a visit to Paris that year.
“We need to stay in the council of ministers of the internal market. In my view, the British have done good things for Europe.”
Staying in the single market is “essential and deliverable”
- Yana Paskova / Getty
In fact, such was Johnson’s enthusiasm for current EU trade rules, that he at one point called for the Brexit referendum to be on the question of whether to stay in a reformed EU, which was just “boiled down” to the single market.
“We could construct a relationship with the EU that more closely resembled that of Norway or Switzerland – except that we would be inside the single market council, and able to shape legislation,” Johnson said, adding that such an arrangement would be “essential and deliverable.”
“If we did not have [the EU] we would have to invent it”
- REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Johnson today delivered his vision for a clean break with the EU, claiming that the bloc has always been intent on creating a “superstate” that wants to rob Britain of its sovereignty.
However, this is a long way from Johnson’s previous position on Europe.
“I am not by any means an ultra-Eurosceptic. In some ways, I am a bit of a fan of the European Union,” Johnson told the House of Commons in 2003.
“If we did not have one, we would invent something like it,” he added.
And while the Leave campaign later majored on raising fears about the EU expanding to include Turkey and other countries in the East, Johnson was actually one of the biggest advocates of Turkey becoming a member. In 2003 he told the Commons that those opposing Turkey’s potential ascension to the EU were “foolish.”
The most “pro-immigration” politician in Britain
- Dan Kitwood / Getty
Johnson today claimed that Britain’s EU membership had led to the suppression of the wages of its “indigenous” people.
“We also need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the impact of 20 years of uncontrolled immigration by low-skilled, low-wage workers – and what many see as the consequent suppression of wages and failure to invest properly in the skills of indigenous young people,” he wrote in the Sun.
However, during the period when Johnson was elected twice for mayor of London, he claimed to be the most pro-immigration politician in the country.
“I’m probably about the only politician I know of who is actually willing to stand up and say that he’s pro-immigration,” Johnson said in 2013.
And far from arguing for an immigration clampdown, the then mayor of London would regularly boast of the benefits of EU immigration to the capital and even called for an amnesty for illegal immigrants living in the country.
A fundamental reversal
- Mary Turner / Getty
When Johnson sat down to write his endorsement for the Brexit campaign, he also famously wrote another article arguing the complete opposition. He would later defend this as a “thought experiment” used to clarify his position.
However, others, including his own friends and allies are more sceptical.
They point to pictures of Johnson looking shell-shocked alongside fellow Leave campaigners once the referendum result came in, which led many people to believe that the result was not what the former London mayor had hoped for.
In fact shortly after these pictures were taken, friends of Johnson told Business Insider that they believed he had never really wanted to leave the EU, with one long-term ally saying that the decision to back the Leave campaign had been purely about his career.
Shortly after the result, Johnson embarked on his own bid for the leadership, only to abandon it when he failed to win enough support from colleagues. With Theresa May’s own leadership now in trouble, many suspect he could be playing the same game again.
As one friend of Johnson told me back in 2016, Johnson’s Brexit U-turn was “all about the leadership.” Today we could be seeing much the same again.”