Just some of the times Boris Johnson backed ‘vassal state’ Brexit policies before the EU vote

The former foreign secretary appears to be railing against his own politics. Britain's future is just one big game to this man...

“We’re going to stay in the customs union on this deal, we’re going to stay in large parts of the single market, and that means it’s vassal state stuff,” raged former foreign secretary Boris Johnson on Tuesday, over Theresa May’s planned Brexit agreement.  

May’s deal is likely to ensure there is a UK-wide ‘customs backstop’ – a mechanism to ensure there is no hard border in Ireland after Brexit, by ensuring there are few checks of goods going between the EU and the UK.

This ‘position of last resort’ would maintain an open border on the island of Ireland in the event we don’t get an all-encompassing trade deal (after all, there is a long transition period after leaving the EU in March while the UK and EU negotiate try and negotiate a proper trade deal.)

The Tory right have been in outright mutiny over the prospect of, umm, frictionless trade between Britain and the EU.

But what did Boris Johnson have to say about the customs union and single market before the UK voted to leave?

“A generous exit”: Bloomberg speech, August 2014

In an address on the need to ‘reform’ the EU, Johnson said that if reforms were not made – including ‘managed migration’ and reform/an end to the Common Agricultural Policy – the UK could leave the EU and…

“I think we could do that [leave] in a friendly way; there is no reason for hostility or rancour on either side. If we got it right, we could negotiate a generous exit, securing EFTA style access to the Common Market – and they would have every motive to do such a deal, given that the balance of trade is very much in their favour.

“And that combination of a lower regulatory burden and undiminished trade access would cause exports to boom, and the whole thing would be turbo-charged by new trading agreement”

EFTA membership ‘typically foresee the elimination of import duties on industrial goods and fish’, according to the organisation – key planks of the customs union.

That of course involves abiding by EU standards on these products: “To circulate freely within the European Economic Area [as part of an EFTA-style deal], products must conform to certain requirements laid down by the EEA Agreement aimed at protecting legitimate interests, such as health, safety and the environment,” the organisation point out.

“I’d back staying in the EU and Single Market”: Reuters, 2012

We shouldn’t necessarily take Johnson’s views at face value given he is a serial u-turner (only a cynic would call him a liar, surely).

In a speech in 2012, Johnson said:

“If we get to this [EU referendum] campaign, I would be well up for trying to make the positive case for some of the good things that have come from the single market…

“There’s a perfectly viable relationship to be had which is happy, contented with the single market, trading freely but not with the whole shebang,” Johnson said during a speech at the Thomson Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf.

Of course, the then-London Mayor also said he’d vote to stay in Europe, and pointed out the economic risks of leaving…

“There’s no question that [investors] are reluctant, or apprehensive, about the prospect of a UK departure, a sudden UK departure. It’s imponderable. They don’t know what it would involve. They see risks there…”

“Thatcher wouldn’t leave the Single Market”: Centre for Policy Studies, 2013

Boris Johnson’s was keen to praise ‘vassal state’ policies in his 2013 Margaret Thatcher lecture:

“I don’t think [Thatcher] would pull out of the single market that she helped to create; not like that, not if she was now the tenant of Number Ten.”

“I would vote to stay in the Single Market”: Sky News, 2013

Here’s Boris backing Britain’s glorious future as a ‘vassal state’:

While May’s deal gives the UK control of Britain’s border, Johnson’s 2013 proposal of staying in the Single Market would mean the continued free movement of workers, goods and services within the EU. Who’s this softy?

A demagogue, not a democrat

There’s plenty more examples to draw from, but you get the picture.

Boris Johnson played up staying in a customs union and the single market when he knew leaving would be a vote-loser: voters knew a harsh Brexit would be an economic disaster, so it wasn’t on the cards.

Now the wannabe PM – and former softy – is playing up his right-wing credentials to cosy up to Tory Brextremists.

“For the first time in 1,000 years this country, this Parliament will not have a say in the laws of this country…it is utterly unacceptable to anybody who believes in democracy,” Johnson said on Tuesday.

But Johnson doesn’t really believe in democracy, by his own reckoning. Instead, he’s prepared to say just about anything to stay atop the news agenda.

All hail our new Johnsonian vassal state…

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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