Characteristically Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s speech starts off with a set of misrepresentations. Faking the appearance of reaching out to: “those who still have anxieties” seems empathetic and understanding. But, in my reading it’s just more show over substance. Before the referendum vote of 23 June 2016, I campaigned on the High Street of Uxbridge and meet his constituents. I can understand how many of them have become concerned about their MP’s hardened stance on Brexit. After all it is a U-Turn.
He talks about three “fears” in the set-up of his speech.
Strategic: The cartoon characterisation of Britain’s place in Europe as a flight from the world for the protection of the European Union is wholly wrong. The reality is that, along with France and Germany, we are a great leader within a union of common interests. To leave is to give-up the advantages we have in both Europe and the world.
Spiritual: The Brexit vote has given a huge boost to nationalism, small-mindedness and xenophobia. It doesn’t matter what the intention was in calling the vote the outcome is a ghastly polarisation that promotes the right-wing of politics as top dog. This outcome is as anti-liberal, uncivilised and not the pragmatism that the world cherishes as so British.
Economic: Objectivity is needed on this technical subject. All the trustworthy indicators from responsible organisations point one-way. This is not emotional “anxieties” or “fears” it’s just plain cold fact. If a smaller percentage of commentators criticise the single market or the customs union then that’s a normal part of normal debate.
At least I can agree with Boris Johnson where he says it’s the government’s duty to advocate and explain. However, the explanations in his speech offered nothing new and took for granted that the 16 million who voted to Remain would just be irritated further by his arguments. In fact, it took Johnson few words to get to emotive language about the so called: “pro-EU elite in this country” and “the Euro-elite”.
Moving on, he has, to some extent recognised that those who voted Remain have entirely noble sentiments, a real sense of solidarity with our European neighbours and a desire for the UK to succeed. To me that goes without saying. True, there may be a minority of both Leave and Remain voters who wished to recklessly damage the UK but most acted in good faith.
Johnson persisted with his table of three “fears” or “anxieties”. This pedestrian structure is laboured through most of the speech. Security, Spirituality and Economics are taken in turn.
On the first, everything he says could be achieved as a strong Britain IN a strong EU. His whole point is null and void because it makes no case for leaving the EU. As expected Johnson steers clear of any reference to the downside of leaving our established partnership in Europe.
Yes, the British are European and global, but we have all that inside the EU. Again, Johnson fails to highlight any advantages of Brexit. He’s rather more comfortable talking about “cheapo flights to stag parties” as a journalist might be in newsprint. But this is a Minister standing at a lectern.
One line concerns me greatly, namely: “If we get the right deal on aviation.” Yet again doubt is thrown into the mix as to what deal might result from UK-EU negotiations. “If” is a big word.
Myths continue to be perpetuated as he rambled on. Up rears the nonsense that somehow Brexit is a matter of regaining something we have lost. Then to compound the mythmaking Johnson ran down the rabbit hole of European integration. The more he continued the further he seemed to be stoking up fears and anxieties rather than allaying them for people. The more he continued the less sense his vague view of Britain’s future seemed to make. The more he continued the more he made the case to exist Brexit with haste.