Boris Johnson is no Johnny-come-lately to the Brexit cause

Boris Johnson is no Johnny-come-lately to the Brexit cause

Following the fallout from Brexit Party candidates standing down in Tory-held seats, some opponents of Boris Johnson continue to portray him as a “Johnny-come-lately” to the Brexit cause. Frequent news articles purport to claim Boris only came round to his belief in exiting the EU at the eleventh hour, specifically on 21st February 2016 when he announced his intention to campaign to Leave. It is high time this nonsense was quashed.

Boris was appointed as the Daily Telegraph Brussels Correspondent thirty years ago. Very few politicians in the UK, especially on the right, considered the possibility of Brexit at that time, yet Boris, as a thrusting young journalist, immediately used his brief to stoke up anti-EC (as it was then) sentiment. It was Boris who brought to the attention of the British public the often ludicrous regulations the country was now bound by. His continued criticism of the then Commission President, Jacques Delors, caused Europhile Chris Patten to describe him angrily as one of the greatest exponents of ‘fake journalism’. The 1988 Labour conference marked a helix transition in party allegiance to the EU, with Delors addressing the Labour conference on social policy, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher estranged from her own Chancellor and Foreign Secretary who were shadowing the Deutschmark.

On the flip side, Boris had become one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite writers. When John Major took over as leader of the Conservative Party in 1990, the new Prime Minister spent a disproportionately large amount of his time arguing against the validity of the points raised by Boris.

Unfortunately the squawking keyboard-warrior advocates of the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ now love to dress Boris up in pro-EU colours. They believe by doing so, they can show even the former leader of the Vote Leave campaign is, deep down, a beneficiary of the EU, and thus attempt a hatchet job on his views.

On closer examination of his newspaper contributions, the reality is rather different. Back in 2015, as the Brexit debate began to heat up, Boris wrote “…there is a very valid future for this country not in the EU”. The following year, two weeks before he officially backed Vote Leave, he described the EU as “…wasteful, expensive and occasionally corrupt”. He debunked the euro as a flawed project and argued those seeking to perpetuate Project Fear were largely the same people who said we must join the EU’s currency to avert catastrophe. We all know how that ended.

Perhaps Boris’s biggest mistake was not coming out sooner and declaring his support for Vote Leave. This may perhaps have had as much to do with his personal relationship with David Cameron as it was about his own politics. The two men had a complicated friendship ever since their days at Eton together and Brexit only exacerbated this. When Boris announced finally his support for Vote Leave, many of his critics condemned his flip-flopping. The opposite was true however – he had taken his time to decide what he thought was best for his country, even penning articles on both sides of the argument. He later described the piece where he reluctantly argued for the UK to Remain as “semi-parodic”.

He concluded the UK had to leave the European Union. A decision taken soberly and unrushed meant his judgement should never have been called into question. After all, a decision taken in haste often results in elongated repent.

Boris’s advantage over Nigel Farage continues to be that he is a party politician determined to achieve the legislative passage of withdrawal from the EU. Reinstating parliamentary sovereignty is after all the point of leaving.

So for those who still doubt his eurosceptic credentials, rather than believe the echo chamber of social media, try looking at the evidence. Boris has been a highly vocal critic of the EU since 1989; led Vote Leave to unprecedented success; achieved the impossible in forcing the EU to reopen negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement; and is now fighting a risky but necessary general election campaign to finally secure our departure from the EU. Forget “Johnny-come-Lately”, Boris was breakfasting on Brexit before Farage was even in Brussels!