Boris Johnson Speech - Briefing

Boris Johnson delivered a speech today entitled The Road to Brexit: A United Kingdom. The speech was billed as an attempt to set out a supposed ‘liberal’ vision of Brexit, as well as an attempt to reach out to those who voted Remain in the referendum and who feel alienated by the Government’s approach to Brexit. Whilst the speech didn’t provide much substance on anything, it is clear there’s an agenda behind his empty words: the scrapping regulations, the destruction of hard-won employment and environmental protections and the introduction of more privatization into the NHS.

Here, Open Britain compares what Boris Johnson said to what he means:


What he said today
“To understand why EU regulation is not always suited to the economic needs of the UK, it is vital to understand that EU law is a special type of law, unlike anything else on earth. It is not just about business convenience. It is expressly teleological. It is there to achieve a political goal.”

What he means

  • We know from what he has said previously that this is code for deregulating the economy and lowering employment and environmental protections.
  • He has long campaigned to “scrap” the social chapter:

“Boil it down to the single market. Scrap the social chapter."
Boris Johnson, 4 December 2012

“There is little doubt that it is that extra stuff, the stuff from Brussels, that is helping to fur the arteries to the point of sclerosis. The weight of employment regulation is now back-breaking: the collective redundancies directive, the atypical workers directive, the working time directive and a thousand more.”
Boris Johnson, 6 June 2014

  • And he has talked about how Brexit is “an opportunity” to deregulate the economy:

“[Brexit] will be an opportunity for this country to get rid of some of the burdensome regulation that has accreted over the last 44 years.”
Boris Johnson, 28 March 2017


What he said today
“Freed from EU regimes, we will not only be able to spend some of our Brexit bonus on the NHS; but as we develop new stem cell technology – in which this country has long been in the lead – it may be that we will need a regulatory framework, scrupulous and moral, but not afraid of the new.”

What he means


Northern Ireland

What he said today
Absolutely nothing.

What he means

  • He has nothing to say about why he is campaigning in Cabinet to take the UK out of the Customs Union when this will jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement settlement.
  • He promised during the referendum there would be “no change” in Northern Ireland, but now has nothing to say about how that can be achieved while leaving the Customs Union

"I think the situation would be absolutely unchanged."

Boris Johnson, 29 February 2016

“The whole thing about the customs union and the technical difficulties is all being turned by great superstition into the equivalent of the millennium bug.”

Boris Johnson, 28 July 2017


Trade Deals

What he said today

“It is only by taking back control of our laws that UK firms and entrepreneurs will have the freedom to innovate, without the risk of having to comply with some directive devised by Brussels, at the urgings of some lobby group, with the aim of holding back a UK competitor. That would be intolerable, undemocratic, and would make it all but impossible for us to do serious free trade deals.”

What he means

  • Again, when Boris Johnson talks about “the freedom to innovate”, he means deregulation and scrapping vital protections for workers and the environment.
  • Boris Johnson has said he sees “all kinds of opportunities” in a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal, despite concerns that such a deal would mean the UK accepting imports of chlorine-washed chicken and hormone beef, as well as concerns about opening up the NHS to private US healthcare companies.

“Boris Johnson plays down concerns over UK-US trade deal”

 Financial Times, 27 April 2017


Environmental Protections

What he said today

“We can simplify planning, and speed up public procurement, and perhaps we would then be faster in building the homes young people need; and we might decide that it was indeed absolutely necessary for every environmental impact assessment to monitor two life cycles of the snail and build special swimming pools for newts.”

What he means

  • Boris Johnson’s mockery of environmental impact assessment shows clearly the real agenda of Brexit, despite all the crowing about a supposed ‘Green Brexit’ from people like the Environment Secretary Michael Gove: they want to scrap environmental protections wholesale.
  • It is utterly ludicrous to blame the EU for his own Government’s failure to build enough houses. Domestic housing policy is not something over which the EU has any influence.

“Brexit could put Britain's environment at risk, says Stanley Johnson [Boris Johnson’s father]”

The Guardian, 4 April 2016