Boris Johnson kicks off Prime Minister Theresa May’s “Road Map to Brexit” with an appeal to supporters of European Union membership to embrace the UK’s future outside the bloc—though extracts released late last night suggest his speech won’t be as conciliatory as billed.
The foreign secretary, a divisive figure who toured the country in a red bus during the 2016 referendum calling for payments to the EU to be redirected to the National Health Service, speaks at 11 a.m. in London.
British politicians have always found “difficult” the idea of EU political integration, Johnson says. Even his most die-hard Remainer friends seem flummoxed by EU regulations. A message here for the UK’s policy toward a transition period post-Brexit?
“If we are going to accept laws, then we need to know who is making them, and with what motives, and we need to be able to interrogate them in our own language, and we need to know how they came to be in authority over us, and how we can remove them,” Johnson says.
“It’s not about shutting ourselves off, it’s about going global,” Johnson says. “Brexit is about reengaging this country to its global identity.”
There is no reason why Brits can’t retire to Spain, continue academic exchanges, Johnson says. Stag parties will continue, “we all want to make Britain less insular,” Johnson says. But these come across more as arguments for staying.
“We can’t take the argument for granted, we must make the case ourselves,” he said. “It’s not good enough for us to say now to Remainers: you lost, get over it.”
“We will continue to be Europeans both practically and psychologically.”
Johnson starts out with some warm words for Remainers, but he quickly segues into a warning not to thwart the process of Brexit. “Brexit can be grounds for much more hope than fear,” he says.
At a venue a stone’s throw from Parliament there was standing-room only for the lawmakers, reporters and diplomats from around the world. Attendees were a mixture of European officials, someone from the US embassy and the Australian High Commission.