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29 May, 2023
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Die-hard eurosceptic or opportunist?

Boris Johnson's views on the EU

Source: Reuters

Boris Johnson, the front-runner to be Britain’s next prime minister, was the face of the official campaign to leave the European Union. But he has made contradictory statements in the past about the relationship he wants Britain to have with the world’s largest trading bloc.

Here are some of the comments:

- Describing himself as a fan of the EU: “I am not by any means an ultra-eurosceptic. In some ways, I am a bit of a fan of the European Union. If we did not have one, we would invent something like it,” Johnson told parliament in 2003.

- On why quitting the EU won’t solve Britain’s problems: “We would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by “Bwussels”, but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure,” he said in Daily Telegraph column in 2013.

- When asked what animal the EU would be: “The EU would be a lobster ... because the EU, by the very way it works, encourages its participating members to order the lobster at the joint meal because they know that the bill is going to be settled by everybody else - normally by the Germans,” Johnson told the Daily Telegraph in 2014.

- On why he was going to support Britain remaining in the EU before the referendum in 2016: “This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms,” Johnson wrote in an unpublished column in the Daily Telegraph in February 2016, according to the book “All Out War”.

“The membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”

- On why he eventually supported leaving the EU during the referendum: “We are seeing a slow and invisible process of legal colonisation, as the EU infiltrates just about every area of public policy,” Johnson wrote in his Daily Telegraph column in February 2016.

“Sometimes these EU rules sound simply ludicrous, like the rule that you can’t recycle a teabag, or that children under eight cannot blow up balloons, or the limits on the power of vacuum cleaners.”

- On the relationship he wants with the EU: “I’m rather pro-European, actually. I certainly want a European community where one can go and scoff croissants, drink delicious coffee, learn foreign languages and generally make love to foreign women,” he said in his Daily Telegraph column in February 2016.

- On how the EU has created the longest period of peace since the Roman era: “The European Community, now Union, has helped to deliver a period of peace and prosperity for its people as long as any since the days of the Antonine emperors,” he said in his biography of Winston Churchill “The Churchill Factor” published in 2014.

- On why the EU resembles Nazi Germany: “Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically. The EU is an attempt to do this by different methods,” he told the Daily Telegraph in May 2016. “But fundamentally what is lacking is the eternal problem, which is that there is no underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe.”

- Johnson’s views on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal: “We are volunteering for economic vassalage,” he told parliament in July 2018. “It is absolute nonsense to imagine, as I fear some of my colleagues do, that we can somehow afford to make a botched treaty now and then break and reset the bone later on.”

- On why he was reluctantly supporting May’s Brexit deal: “We have a choice to make now, and that means choosing between options that actually exist,” Johnson said on Twitter in March. “It is very painful to vote for this deal. But I hope we can now work together to remedy its defects.”

- On the euro: “The euro is a calamitous project, it will limp on with sclerotic growth rates,” Johnson said at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event in 2012. “It will eventually blow up but I wouldn’t care to bet when.”

- On what relationship Britain should have: “Boil it down to the single market, that’s the great achievement of the European Union, I think we could easily scrap the social chapter, the fisheries policy.” 

- On why Britain should pursue a so-called hard Brexit: “The grimmer the warnings, and the more systematic the efforts to make their flesh creep, the greater has been [people’s] indifference and their resolve,” he wrote in Daily Telegraph column. “It is no deal, or WTO terms, that actually corresponds to their idea of coming out.”

- On the Brexit strategy he will pursue if prime minister: “If I get in we’ll come out, deal or no deal, on October the 31st,” he said in campaign video released this month.

“I always thought it was extraordinary that we should agree to write that entire cheque before having a final deal. In getting a good deal, money is a great solvent and a great lubricant,” he told the Sunday Times this month.

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