Boris Johnson's naked ambition blinds him to the dangers of Brexit | Martin Kettle

The Guardian Opinions 6 months ago

Boris Johnson has made his career out of creating myths about Europe. With Theresa May’s job again within his ever-ambitious grasp, he’s not going to stop doing it now.

The foreign secretary’s speech this week will conjure the prospect of a “liberal” post-Brexit free trading order. In this Johnsonian vision, Britain will be freed from politically driven European regulatory systems whose true purpose is only to create a unified Europe. Instead, he says, Britain will be able to create its own regulatory regimes to align issues such as social rights, the environment and energy with the country’s post-Brexit global free trade aspirations.

The problem is, it is about as realistic and fact-based as the claims Johnson made three decades ago when he was a tyro Eurosceptic journalist in Brussels. Those were the days when Johnson’s ever colourful and mocking stories about EU plans to standardise condom sizes, ban British potato chips and blow up its own headquarters helped fuel a Eurosceptic mood in which everything about the union was axiomatically “bad for Britain”.

Thirty years on, Johnson is still at it. He now claims leaving the EU will bring economic gains providing Britain is able to make its own regulations unencumbered by too close a relationship to the EU single market and customs union. This too is the triumph of hope, not to say self-delusion, over reality.

It is true that a few – mostly not very successful – European political leaders still dream of a United States of Europe and see “more Europe” as the reflexive answer to every problem affecting the union and its people. But the vast majority of leaders these days are pragmatists about the rewards of working together, not idealists.

Crucially, the EU single market and customs union means that many of the main blockages to the free flow of trade across Europe have been removed. Modern Britain has done well out of those flows. In that sense, a “liberal” Britain should be staying in or as close as possible to the EU. The real risk is that, by turning its back on EU regulatory systems, post-Brexit Britain deregulates things such as workplace and environmental safeguards in a desperate search for a trading advantage that would soon hit British workers and citizens badly.

Intoxicated by the myth of his own superior intelligence, or simply by the allure of another tilt at the Conservative leadership, Johnson seems incapable of understanding these realities and dangers. Of course there could be a “liberal” form of Brexit – cleaving close to the EU in a Norway-style deal that would give Britain the material benefits without a say in the working of the system. But this is the opposite of the version Boris Johnson is offering.

Source link
Read also:
Los Angeles Times Sports 6 months ago
Ted Potter Jr. outplayed the world's No. 1 player and held off everyone else to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National for his first victory since a...
The Guardian Finance 6 months ago
George Soros has moved to defy his critics over his £400,000 donation to the pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain by pledging an additional...
The Telegraph Politics 6 months ago
Billionaire financier George Soros has pledged another £100,000 to his anti-Brexit campaign after he said that engineering a “mere reversal” of the... Incident 6 months ago
Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson is still basking in the glow of the Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. Never shy...
The Sun 6 months ago
WHILE some users love Instagram for their stunning landscapes or artistic shots of food, others enjoy posting (or viewing) slightly racier photos...
Bloomberg Finance 6 months ago
Divisions over Brexit were on display again on Sunday.International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said a series of speeches planned by Prime...
The Sun 6 months ago
RITA Ora showcased her incredible body on Instagram as she stripped completely naked. The stunning star posed in front of the water as the sun set...
The Telegraph Politics 6 months ago
Good afternoon. The next few weeks will be significant for Theresa May, as she aims not just to unite the cabinet behind a vision for Brexit, but to...
The Telegraph Politics 6 months ago
Philip Hammond has been sidelined from a series of major "road to Brexit" interventions by Cabinet ministers over the next fortnight as Theresa May... Lifestyle 6 months ago
Chris Martin is the master of the friendly breakup. On Saturday, the Coldplay frontman attended Ellen DeGeneres’ star-studded birthday alongside...
One click to connect
Select a social network to associate your account