Boris Johnson has urged European workers who left the UK during lockdown to return – despite promoting an Immigration Bill making it more difficult for them to live and work here.
During the general election campaign Johnson criticised the numbers of EU nationals coming to live in the UK as he promoted immigration proposals which would reduce the number of ‘low-skilled workers’ here.
He told Sky News back then: ‘You’ve seen quite a large number of people coming in from the whole of the EU able to treat the UK as though it’s basically part of their own country and the problem with that is there has been no control at all and I don’t think that is democratically accountable.’
Now, as the UK economy struggles, Johnson has used his latest press conference at Downing Street to call for those very EU nationals to return to help when the retail sector reopens.
Answering a question from an Italian journalist on EU nationals, he said: ‘What I’d say to our Italian friends, Italians who want to come back in the UK, is ‘come back’, tutti benvenuti.
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‘Come back to London or the UK, but you’ve got to quarantine, everybody has been lockdown for a long time, I know it’s an imposition but we’ve really got to defeat this virus. But we want you back.’
His comments baffled viewers of the latest press briefing, who noted his attitudes and remarks before this.
Anne Applebaum wrote: ‘The main Brexit argument during the referendum campaign – the one pushed and promoted on social media – was: We have too many European workers here’.
Marina O’Loughlin tweeted: ‘A combination of gibbering and speechless that shortsighted stupidity and pandering to worst instincts have brought us here’.
Emma Kennedy posted: ‘This makes me furious. He spent the entire 2016 campaign telling them to go home. Man who has embraced populism suddenly realises populism is rubbish for the economy.’
‘Oh no, hasn’t anyone told Johnson about Brexit,’ sighed @Jennyflower. ‘How it stripped away rights for EU citizens to live and work freely in the UK and for us to live and work in the EU? Someone should tell him.’
‘I can’t get over this,’ wrote @Henrietta_22. ‘4 years of attacking and vilifying Europeans now his tune has changed and it’s ‘Tutti benvenuti’. How about va fan cuolo PM.’
‘Forgive me if I’ve got this wrong, but wasn’t Brexit about stopping people from the EU freely working here?’ asked Ted Smith.
‘Like somebody who treated their partner like shit until they left leaving a wheedling message asking for forgiveness because they don’t know how the dishwasher works,’ noted Ted Smith.