Boris Johnson Brexit speech – as it happened: Foreign Secretary seeks to woo remainers but key address light on detail


Boris Johnson has warned that reversing the 2016 referendum result will be a “disastrous mistake” as he set out his vision for Brexit in a major speech.

In an attempt to reach out to pro-Europeans in Britain, Mr Johnson, a prominent Leave campaigner, added in his speech: “It is not good enough to say to Remainers – you lost, get over it; because we must accept that many are actuated by entirely noble sentiments.”

During the speech he also left open the option of resigning from the Cabinet if he fails to get the clean break Brexit he is demanding.

Asked to guarantee he would not walk out – if his senior colleagues decide to keep close alignment with EU regulations, in a long-term trading deal – the Foreign Secretary ducked the question.

Instead, he said only: “We are all very luck to serve. And I am certainly one of those.”

The comment came at the end of a major speech in which Mr Johnson said it would be “intolerable and undemocratic” if Britain had to follow EU laws over which it had no say.

Live Updates

9 hours ago
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As we wait for Johnson’s speech at around 11am, this is from the Press Association – the latest in the battle to capture the environmental ground. 

Dozens of senior Tories including Environment Secretary Michael Gove have promised to cut down on their plastic use for Lent in the latest sign of the party’s bid to burnish its green credentials.

Business Secretary Greg Clark and 11 other ministers have promised to reduce the amount of single-use plastics such as water bottles, cutlery and disposable coffee cups they consume.

Mr Gove was spotted strolling into Downing Street with a reusable coffee mug in January and later the entire Cabinet was provided with a green alternative to disposable cups.

The Tories, keen to woo young voters, have made a concerted effort to stress their environmental policies, including a major speech by Theresa May setting out plans to curb plastic use.

9 hours ago
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Boris Johnson is now up – he’s repeating extracts that were briefed out last night. Reaching out to Remainers, he says he wants to “allay” their fears. 
He also warns it would be a ‘disastrous mistake” to overturn the referendum result.
Johnson says there are three types of concern about the “momentous choice thew nation has made” .
They are “strategic, spiritual and economic” 
“I want to show you today that Brexit need not be nationalist but internationalist – not an economic threat but a considerable opportunity,” he says.
It is this government’s duty to advocate and explain the mission on which we are now engaged, Boris adds.
“It is not good enough to say to Remainers – you lost, get over it; because we must accept that many are actuated by entirely noble sentiments, a real sense of solidarity with our European neighbours and a desire for the UK to succeed.” 

8 hours ago

On security, he says all those worry about the loss of security after Brexit he can offer the same assurances given by Theresa May – a commitment to foreign aid, defence spending. 
He says the defence spending is “unconditional and immoveable” – words that will undoubtedly be welcomed by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. 
“We will continue to be Europeans both practical and psychologically, because out status as one of the great contributors to European culture and civilisation,” he says – in another olive branch to pro-European voters.
This is from my colleague Ben Kentish who is at Boris Johnson’s speech at the Policy Exchange building in central London.

8 hours ago

“There are more British people living in Australia than in the whole of the EU and more in the US and Canada.
“As I have discovered we have more than a million who go Thailand every year, where according to our superb consular services they get up to the most eye-popping things.”

8 hours ago
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Some colourful words in Boris Johnson’s speech here:
“In that sense Brexit is about re-engaging this country with its global identity, and all the energy that can flow from that.
“And I absolutely refuse to accept the suggestion that it is some unBritish spasm of ban manners.
“It’s not some great V-sign from the cliffs of Dover.

8 hours ago

Boris its say it is vital we treat Brexit as an economic opportunity.
On immigration, he says he is “not hostile” towards immigrants or immigration, but adds: 

“We also need to ask ourselves some hard questions about the impact of 20 years of uncontrolled immigration by low-skilled, low-wage workers – and what many see as the consequent suppression of wages and failure to invest properly in the skills of indigenous young people.

“We do not want to haul up the drawbridge; and we certainly don’t want to deter the international students who make such a huge contribution to our HE economy, with 155,000 Chinese students alone.

“But we want to exercise control; and if we are going to move from a low-wage, low-productivity economy to a high-wage, high productivity economy – as we must – then Brexit gives us back at least one of the levers we need.

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He adds:

“It is very striking that since the Brexit vote the fortunes of UKIP – the one stridently anti-immigration party in this country – have gone into a long deserved eclipse; and that is because people feel they are being heard in their desire at least for control.

“And the contrast is very striking with some Schengen countries, where no such control is possible, and where the far right is on the rise.

“And as the PM has said repeatedly, we must take back control of our laws. It would obviously be absurd, as Theresa May said in her Lancaster House and Florence speeches – which now have the lapidary status of the codes of Hammurabi or Moses – if we were obliged to obey laws over which we have no say and no vote.”

… Some interesting comparisons there.

8 hours ago

“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. The same point can be made of innovative financial services instruments, where the FCA already leads the way.

“We will decide on laws not according to whether they help to build a united states of Europe but because we want to create the best platform for the economy to grow and help people to live their lives.

8 hours ago

Boris says ” no one should think that Brexit is some economic panacea, any more than it is right to treat it as an economic pandemic.”

“On the contrary, the success of Brexit will depend on what we make of it

“And a success is what we will make of it – together.

“And that very success will be the best thing for the whole of continental Europe – a powerful adjacent economy buying more Italian cars and German wine than ever before.

8 hours ago

On the issue of a second referendum, Boris says:

“And so I say to my remaining remainer friends – actually quite numerous – more people voted Brexit than have ever voted for anything in the history of this country.

“And I say in all candour that if there were to be a second vote I believe that we would simply have another year of wrangling and turmoil and feuding in which the whole country would lose.

“So let’s not go there.”

8 hours ago

He finishes his speech with the line: “Brexit is not just the great liberal project of the age, but a project that over time can unite this country. So let’s do it with confidence.”

8 hours ago

He’s now taking questions from the press – he’s asked whether he is still saying whether Britain wants to have its cake and eat it. 
He says the PM was right to say we can have a free trade deal and take back control. “It will take work, and it will take effort. We need to get on and do it.” 
Asked what he would say to those people who want clarity on the key questions from citizens, businesses and workers. 
Boris says there is abundance of clarity in the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House and Florence speech.
Asked whether he regrets some of the language he used during the EU referendum, Boris says he’s always been “caring” and “moderate”.

7 hours ago

Asked whether he believes immigration should run above 100,000 after Brexit, he says he’s not going to get into a “numbers game” and he’s set out his arguments before.

7 hours ago

Asked whether he will resign from the Government over the Brexit direction, he avoided the question, adding he’s “lucky to serve”.

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